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Wairarapa (//; Māori pronunciation: [ˈwaiɾaɾapa]) is a geographical region of New Zealand. It occupies the south-eastern corner of the North Island, east of metropolitan Wellington and south-west of the Hawke's Bay region. It is lightly populated, having several rural service towns, with Masterton being the largest. It is named after its largest lake, Lake Wairarapa.
The area south of Mt Bruce is in the Wellington Region. It contains the Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa Districts (Greytown, Featherston, Martinborough). It is separated from Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt cities by the Rimutaka Ranges.
The district's northern borders are vague, and there is some overlap with southern Hawke's Bay. Part of the reason is that the area was settled from both the north and the west and has been the subject of several reorganisations of local government, but Woodville is often considered to be the northern-most settlement of the region.
The area from Mt Bruce north, extending through Eketahuna, Pahiatua, Woodville, Dannevirke, to just north of Norsewood is part of the Tararua District and is in the Manawatu-Wanganui region, because it is in the catchment of the headwaters of the Manawatu River. The river runs westward between the two mountain ranges (Tararua Range to the south and Ruahine Range to the north) via the Manawatu Gorge, to pass through Palmerston North and reach the west coast of the North Island.
The east coast contains settlements such as Tinui, Castlepoint, and Riversdale Beach, while the main southern rivers drain through or past Lake Wairarapa to discharge into Palliser Bay east of Cook Strait.
European settlement began in the early 1840s, initially on large grazing runs leased from Māori, and with closer settlement from the 1850s.
The agricultural industries, including forestry, cropping, sheep, beef and dairy farming, are major land users. The area around Martinborough, in the south, is notable for its vineyards and wine, as are the outskirts of Masterton and Carterton. Beer has been brewed at Mangatainoka, near Pahiatua, since 1889. Deer farming is growing in importance.
The region is well served by different transport modes. The State Highway 2, via Rimutaka Hill Road connects the region to Wellington in the south and the Manawatu in the north. The Wairarapa railway line connects the region via the Rimutaka Tunnel to Wellington, and connects with the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line at Woodville. A commuter rail passenger service, the Wairarapa Connection from Masterton to Wellington is operated by Tranz Metro.
Famous people born in the Wairarapa
- Bob Charles, champion golfer and winner of the 1963 British Open, at Carterton.
- Masterton-born singer/songwriter Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown
- Jemaine Clement, one half of the comedy band/TV series "Flight of the Conchords"
- Murray Halberg, middle distance runner and Olympic gold medalist, at Eketahuna
- Sir Brian Lochore, All Black captain and World Cup-winning coach, at Masterton
- Marcus Daniell Masterton-born professional tennis player.
- Keith Holyoake, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, at Pahiatua.
- Maurice Wilkins, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, whose work led to the discovery of the structure of DNA, at Pongaroa.
- Alan Graham MacDiarmid, Nobel Prize-winning chemist, born in Masterton.
- Vincent Ward, Film director, at Greytown (What dreams may come, The Navigator, Vigil, River Queen)
- Raybon Kan, Comedian, at Masterton
- Mike Fabulous, member of The Black Seeds and Fly My Pretties
- Jesse Ryder, International cricketer, at Masterton
- Sam Yu, Nanotechnologist, at Masterton
- Featherston born Professor Max Abbott, recipient of the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology, and former Chairman of Auckland's Waitamata DHB and president of the World Federation for Mental Health.
- List of regions in New Zealand
- Georgina Beyer, Ex MP for Wairarapa, ex Mayor of Carterton.
- Grant Batty, Greytown, Ex *All Black*
- Geoffrey Fisken, Grazier, Fighter Pilot
- Zac Guildford, Masterton, All Black
- New Zealand wine