Tawa, New Zealand

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Tawa main street.jpg
Tawa's main shopping centre, photographed in December 2005.
Basic information
Local authority Wellington City
Electoral ward Ohariu
Population 13,764[1] (2006)
Railway station(s) Takapau Road, Redwood, Tawa, Linden
North Porirua
South Grenada Village
Southwest Churton Park
West Ohariu

Tawa is the northernmost suburb of Wellington, located between Churton Park and Porirua in the North Island of New Zealand. It takes its name from the broadleaf tree, which was once prolific throughout the area, although its most famous tree is the Bucket Tree, a group of large macrocarpa with the topiary of an upside-down bucket.[2] Tawa is also known for its large number of churches, representing a wide range of Christian denominations.[3]

The suburb of Tawa occupies the Tawa Basin. Within Tawa, there are a number of named areas: Lindenvale, Westhaven and Redwood to the west and Linden, Greenacres and Sundale to the east of the central Tawa area.

Geography and transportation[edit]

Tawa is located in a roughly north/south valley which opens up on the north into the Porirua Basin. The valley is about 4.5 km in length (north to south) and 2.5 km wide (east to west). The Belmont range, to the east, separates the Tawa valley from the Hutt Valley, while the Ohariu Valley is located to the west of Tawa. The northern entrance to Tawa is where Kenepuru Drive becomes Main Road, and its southern entrance the Tawa exit of SH1. The Porirua Stream flows along the valley, fed by a number of tributaries, including the Takapu Stream. Tawa is Wellington's northernmost suburb, located roughly 15 km north of Wellington's CBD.

Loosely following the path of the Porirua Stream through the valley is the North Island Main Trunk Line, which is the Kapiti Line of the Wellington suburban railway, operated by Tranz Metro. Slightly to the east, the Johnsonville-Porirua Motorway, a dual-carriageway section of SH1, also follows a similar path. Both have played an important role in the suburb's development and in providing access. The literally named Main Road runs down the centre of the suburb and provides access to the smaller suburban streets.

In 2003 the Wellington City Council implemented the SaferRoads - Tawa project, as part of the wider SaferRoads project, to "reduce the number of crashes in Wellington City by one third by the year 2010".[4] As a result of the project, numerous traffic calming measures were implemented including narrower traffic lanes, speed humps, curb extensions, pedestrian refuges, chokers and traffic islands, and an increased number of roundabouts, particularly mini-roundabouts. The aim of these measures was to reduce crashes and injuries by reducing the speed of vehicles within Tawa, improve safety for cyclists and "manag[e] traffic on to the right roads so that a safer distribution of traffic is achieved".[5] A number of these implementations, particularly traffic islands along the Main Road, were removed shortly after installation following complaints by users such as bus and truck operators.

Proposals to reduce the speed limit within the suburb from 50 to 40 km/h were initially deferred.[6] In 2008, however, they were once again proposed, leading the Tawa Community Board to enter a submission in opposition to a blanket speed of 40 km/h.[7]

Tawa is served by the five suburban passenger railway stations of Kenepuru, Linden, Tawa, Redwood and Takapu Road, with a significant number of commuters travelling daily by train into the Wellington CBD to work. As a result, trains are a significant component of Tawa's public transport but the suburb is also serviced by a bus route traveling between Porirua and Johnsonville. Despite these bus and train services, a substantial area on Tawa's fringes remain over 400 metres from public transport, particularly in Redwood, Greenacres and Linden.[8] Measured this way, Tawa is one of the poorest public transport served suburbs in Wellington[citation needed] and as a result, park and ride facilities at the suburbs four railway stations are normally full on weekdays.

In 2009 the Wellington City Council commenced work on a cycle trail through Tawa that will link to Porirua City Centre. This trail is a combination of new paths following the Porirua Stream and/or rail corridor and widening of some existing footpaths.

Local government and name[edit]

Originally the area was part of the Tawa Flat Borough, which was renamed Tawa Borough in 1959. Tawa was known as Tawa Flat until 1959; the New Zealand Geographic Board decided on 24 November 1958 that the place would be known as Tawa from 23 February 1959.[9]

In 1989 the residents of Tawa were offered the choice between joining Porirua and Wellington (no option to remain a borough was present). Tawa chose to amalgamate with the Wellington City Council and subsequently contributes, as part of the city's Northern Ward, to elect three city councillors. Tawa retains a Community Board, which represents the suburb in matters of local and community affairs. The former Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, is from Tawa.



Tawa Flat was first settled by Pākehā in the mid-19th century, under direction of Edward Gibbon Wakefield of the New Zealand Company. It was originally divided up into 100- and 1-acre (4,000 m2) blocks, much the same as any other early New Zealand settlement. Much of the eastern side of the Tawa valley was owned by a single family until the demand for housing land overtook the benefits of farming the land. In 1951, a Town District was established covering Tawa and Linden. Within two years this had become Tawa Flat Borough.


The development of Tawa, like many population centres, has been strongly tied with the development of transportation networks.

1930s and 40s: The Tawa Flat deviation[edit]

In the late 1930s, the North Island Main Trunk Railway was deviated from Kaiwharawhara by the Tawa Flat deviation. The main line previously followed a circuitous route via Johnsonville and had been built by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company in the 1880s; the line was not incorporated into the New Zealand Railways Department network until December 1908. The two routes diverged just south of the present day Tawa Railway Station, and the connection to Johnsonville was severed on 19 June 1937. The Johnsonville route now operates in truncated form as the Johnsonville Branch.[10] As a result of the deviation, it became easier for residents of Tawa to commute into Wellington and demand for housing increased.

Arohata Women's Prison, located at the southern end of Tawa, was built in 1944 and was originally a women's borstal. It became a youth prison in 1981 and a women's prison in 1987.

1950s and 60s: urban motorway[edit]

During the 1950s, the Johnsonville–Porirua Motorway was built through Tawa, on the eastern side of the valley, following the line of the North Island Main Trunk railway. Tawa was starting to become a fairly large suburb of Wellington city, with land being at a premium in the steep terrain of the region. In 1961, Tawa College was built on land that straddles the motorway, with the main school campus being west of the motorway, and playing fields to the east.

1970s to present day[edit]

During the 1970s, Tawa experienced significant residential growth, Redwood and parts of Sundale in particular expanded outward. Since the 1990s, Tawa has been expanding more slowly. By the turn of the 21st Century, most of the green field residential growth in Tawa has been occurring to the east of the Motorway, mainly spreading eastward up toward the parallel Takapu Valley in the direction of the Belmont Range.

Whilst green field residential growth has slowed, there has been significant infill housing as property owners, particularly owners of older quarter acre sections, subdivide their properties. Along with infill housing, the turn of the 21st century has seen the redevelopment of some of Tawa's previously industrial area including the development of Dress Smart - an outlet shopping centre - and the retirement village Redwood village. Tawa's latest retail development is located on what is colloquially known as "Takapu Island"; a site located alongside the Tawa motorway off-ramp. As of March 2008 development of the site has been restricted to earthworks. Conversely, one of Tawa's other shopping centres, Tawa Junction, closed in 2008 after a lengthy period with few occupants and has since been mooted as a location for another retirement village.

In 1999 Tawa, along with Mount Eden and Mount Roskill, became the last place in New Zealand to vote in favour of becoming "wet" in local restoration polls. Voting to become "wet" allowed the purchase of alcohol within the suburb for the first time and since then several pubs and bars have opened.


According to the 2006 New Zealand Census, Tawa's population was around 13,000. The Wellington City Council's estimate of Tawa's population as at June 2011 is 14,900.


Schools in Tawa include:

  • Greenacres School
  • Hampton Hill School
  • Linden School
  • Redwood School
  • St Francis Xavier School
  • Tawa College
  • Tawa Intermediate School
  • Tawa School

Churches and other religious groups[edit]

Churches in Tawa include:

  • Tawa-Linden Anglican Church
  • Tawa Baptist Church
  • Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Gospel Hall
  • Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
  • New Life Church
  • Salvation Army
  • Tawa Samoan Assembly of God
  • Tawa Union Church

In 2011 the Exclusive Brethren in Wellington relocated to Tawa from Crofton Downs and a number of their membership moved into the area.

There is also a Christadelphian Ecclesia in Linden, as well as a traditional Catholic chapel, run by priests from the Society of St. Pius X, who are based in Wanganui.

A Buddhist Dhamma Gavesi Mediation Centre was established in Tawa in 2011.


Community facilities[edit]

Tawa has a number of community facilities. Upgraded in 2002 at a cost of NZ$1.6 million, the Mervyn Kemp Library is located on the corner of the Main Rd and Cambridge St. Also on Cambridge St is the Tawa Community Centre, which now also occupies the space vacated by the ANZ Bank when it closed its Tawa Branch. On November 13, 2004 the $2.4 million Tawa Recreation Centre was opened. The Centre is located at Tawa College and is a partnership between the College and the Wellington City Council.[11] Located on Davies St is the Tawa Pool, which features a 25-metre heated indoor pool, learner pool, toddler pool, spa and sauna.[12]

Retail facilities[edit]

Along with Outlet City, much of Tawa's current retail and manufacturing businesses are located along the Main Road. The section of the Main Road between Lyndhurst Road and Lincoln Ave forms the village center of Tawa and provides day-to-day retail services including supermarket, mail, and pharmacy services. Also present in along the Main Road are the Mervyn Kemp Library, medical centre, dentists, banks, many restaurants and takeaway shops. A secondary retail center is located alongside Linden Station. In 2009 to 2011 there was a significant increase in the number of ethnic retail stores and restaurants in particular Indian and Asian.

Sporting facilities[edit]

Tawa is also home to a number of other community run sporting facilities. Alongside the Tawa pool is the Tawa Bowls club. Tawa St is home to the North Wellington Badminton Association, which boasts a 6 court tournament class stadium. Also on Tawa St is the Tawa-Lyndhurst Tennis Club. There are a number of Rugby Union grounds in Tawa, with Tawa Rugby located at Lyndhurst park. There are a number of Cricket ovals in Tawa, including Linden Park. The Tawa Squash club is located on the Main Rd. There are several Football grounds for different grades in Tawa, including the use of the College grounds, the clubroom is shared with the Tawa Softball Club. Tawa is also home to the Tawa Mah Jong Club, which hosts the Wellington Mah Jong Tournament each June,[13] as well as the Kapi Mana Bridge Club.[14]


Along with built facilities, Tawa also boasts a large number of landscaped and natural parks, many of which contain play areas and open spaces. The Porirua Stream flows through a number of these parks. Community groups in Tawa, including the Friends of Tawa Bush Reserves, have increasingly worked in partnership with the local council to take interest and ownership of protecting Tawa's bushclad environment, waterways and community parks.

Notable residents and former residents[edit]


  • Carman, Arthur H (1956, 1970, 1982) Tawa Flat and the Old Porirua Road.
  • Murray, Bruce (2005). The Streets of Tawa.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°10′17.64″S 174°49′29.23″E / 41.1715667°S 174.8247861°E / -41.1715667; 174.8247861