Kōrero: Wairarapa places

Whārangi 10. Palliser district

Ngā whakaahua me ngā rauemi katoa o tēnei kōrero

Ruamāhanga River

Wairarapa’s principal river. Beginning in the central Tararua Range, the Ruamāhanga River flows south-eastwards across the Masterton basin, then turns south-west down the east side of the Wairarapa basin. Directed along an artificial channel at Lake Wairarapa, it drains into Lake Ōnoke. The river and its tributaries are known for trout fishing and swimming. Jet boating and canoeing are popular on the lower reaches.


Farming locality 29 km south-west of Martinborough. Pirinoa is the site of Kohunui marae, which features the Tuhirangi meeting house, opened in 1956. The marae is available to all sub-tribes of the south Wairarapa.

Hau Nui wind farm

Wind farm 20 km south-east of Martinborough. Built in 1996, Hau Nui was New Zealand’s first commercial wind farm. It generates enough energy to power 1,500 homes.

Lake Ferry

Small fishing and holiday settlement on the eastern side of the outlet of Lake Ōnoke, 35 km south-west of Martinborough. It was once the site of a ferry service that operated across the lake outlet.

Palliser Bay

Rugged Palliser Bay stretches from Turakirae Head to Cape Palliser. The coast is fully exposed to southerly swells. Its mudstone cliffs are undermined by waves, and prone to collapsing. Palliser Bay’s isolation and spectacular scenery has recently seen the construction of a number of luxury lodges, catering for wealthy New Zealand and international guests.

A real cliffhanger

In 2007 a clifftop house with panoramic sea views at Whatarangi, in Palliser Bay, sold for $40,000 – remarkably cheap for coastal property. Prospective buyers worldwide showed interest because of the low price. But there was a downside – erosion from waves had already destroyed half the section, and the house sat on the cliff edge and was no longer safe to inhabit. Other houses in the area have fallen into the sea.

Aorangi Forest Park

Forest area in the Aorangi Range, between Martinborough and Cape Palliser. The park contains sites of early Māori occupation, including the Pūtangirua site. Vegetation includes forests of beech, hīnau, mahoe and mataī, with shrublands of tauhinu, mānuka and kānuka at lower altitudes. There are small areas of subalpine shrubs on the peaks. The park is popular with trampers and hunters, and has populations of pigs, goats and deer.

Pūtangirua Pinnacles

Dramatic eroded landforms 10 km south-east of Lake Ferry in Aorangi Forest Park. Soaring like skyscrapers, the pillars are made of old alluvial gravels (conglomerate). The pillars formed as heavy rain washed away softer rock, leaving more resistant rock behind. In time individual earth pillars (hoodoos) developed, protected by a boulder or hard surface on top. Some are thought to be over 1,000 years old. They are eroding by about 1 centimetre per year.


Wairarapa’s main fishing settlement, on Palliser Bay, 60 km south of Martinborough. Ngāwī has no harbour, so fishing boats are launched by bulldozers from the beach. The town is known for its annual fishing contest, held in February.

Cape Palliser

Headland at the south-eastern end of Palliser Bay. At the foot of the Aorangi Range, Cape Palliser is the North Island’s southernmost point. The 18-metre lighthouse at the tip of the cape sits on a hill 80 metres above sea level. Lieutenant James Cook named the cape and Palliser Bay in 1770, after his friend Sir Hugh Palliser. Earlier, Māori called the cape Mātakitaki-a-Kupe (the gazing of Kupe), after the famous Polynesian explorer. The cape is home to the largest fur seal breeding colony in the North Island.

Going green

The primary school at Kahutara, south of Featherston, is known as an enviroschool. It runs a worm farm to reduce waste. Rubbish bins are divided into biodegradable (green, worm-friendly) and non-biodegradable (red, not worm-friendly), and school waste has been reduced from about six bags a week to one. The school has established an organic garden and is encouraging native plant growth.


A farming and fishing locality at the Awheaiti Stream mouth, 45 km south of Martinborough. Tora was the site of the large Te Awaiti run owned by the Riddiford family. Part of this was subdivided into farms for resettlement of soldiers after the Second World War. Tora offers holiday and small conference accommodation.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Ben Schrader, 'Wairarapa places - Palliser district', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/wairarapa-places/page-10 (accessed 22 July 2024)

He kōrero nā Ben Schrader, i tāngia i te 29 Mar 2007, updated 11 Jun 2015