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Coordinates: 42°42′56″S 170°58′5″E / 42.71556°S 170.96806°E / -42.71556; 170.96806
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Hokitika township
Hokitika township
Coordinates: 42°42′56″S 170°58′5″E / 42.71556°S 170.96806°E / -42.71556; 170.96806
CountryNew Zealand
RegionWest Coast
DistrictWestland District
Settled by Europeans1864
 • Territorial authorityWestland District Council
 • Regional councilWest Coast Regional Council
 • Mayor of WestlandHelen Lash
 • West Coast-Tasman MPMaureen Pugh
 • Te Tai Tonga MPTākuta Ferris
 • Total11.78 km2 (4.55 sq mi)
 (June 2023)[2]
 • Total3,120
 • Density260/km2 (690/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code03
Local iwiNgāi Tahu

Hokitika is a town in the West Coast region of New Zealand's South Island, 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Greymouth, and close to the mouth of the Hokitika River. It is the seat and largest town in the Westland District. The town's estimated population is 3,120 as of June 2023.[2]

On a clear day Aoraki / Mount Cook can clearly be seen from Hokitika's main street.


The name Hokitika translates from Māori as "to return directly" (from hoki, 'to return', and tika, 'direct'). According to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the name comes from when a band of Ngāi Tahu warriors in search of greenstone were about to attack Ngāti Wairangi . The chief of the invaders drowned while trying to cross the Hokitika River, and the leaderless taua (army) then returned directly to their own home.[3]


The land where Hokitika stands was purchased in 1860 from Māori when Poutini Ngāi Tahu chiefs signed the Arahura Deed. This was the sale of the whole of the West Coast region, apart from small areas reserved for Māori. It was almost 3 million hectares and sold to the Crown for £300.[4][5][6]

Founded on gold mining in 1864, it was a centre of the West Coast Gold Rush and grew very quickly.[4] Members of the Jewish community ran stores and businesses and built a synagogue in Tancred St.[7] One of them, John Lazar, was appointed Town Clerk in 1866 and was a prominent Freemason.[7][8]

By late 1866, it was one of New Zealand's most populous centres. On 16 September 1867, there were 41 vessels alongside the wharf at Hokitika, in some places three and four deep. In 1867, the port of Hokitika ranked first in New Zealand in both the number of vessels entered inwards and in the total value of exports; principally gold.

Port of Hokitika in 1867

On 8 March 1868 a mock funeral was held in protest about the conviction and hanging of three Irish Fenians in Manchester – the Manchester Martyrs. The funeral was led by Roman Catholic Father William Larkin and a Celtic Cross was erected in the Hokitika Cemetery. Larkin was later arrested, charged, and convicted of riot and seditious libel.[9]

Hokitika township in the 1870s

In 1873 Hokitika became the capital of the short-lived Westland Province which lasted from 1873 until the abolition of provinces in 1876.

Panoramic view Hokitika, New Zealand, ca. 1875

In the early 20th century Hokitika had two hospitals, the Westland Hospital and the Seaview Asylum.[10]

In October 1941, three Hokitika police officers (and a policeman stationed in the neighbouring locality of Kaniere), along with a field instructor for the Canterbury education board, were killed when a local farmer, Stanley Graham, went on a shooting rampage and killed seven people, including two armed Home guard personnel.

In the ensuing manhunt, the biggest in New Zealand history, overseen by the Commissioner of Police, Denis Cummings, more than 100 New Zealand Police and several hundred New Zealand Army & Home Guard searched the area for the gunman for 12 days, with orders to shoot him on sight if found still armed. On 20 October, after being spotted by two police constables and a local civilian carrying his rifle and ammunition belts, Graham was fatally wounded by a police constable and died the next day.[11]

The population has declined greatly since that time but the population of the Westland District is now on the rise thanks to "lifestyle inhabitants". Almost 30% of the district's rate-payers live outside of Hokitika.



Hokitika has an oceanic climate, with mild summers, cool winters, and rainfall evenly distributed across the year. It is one of the wettest places in New Zealand, with over 2,800 mm (110 in) of rainfall per year.

Climate data for Hokitika Airport (1991–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 29.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 19.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 15.8
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 12.0
Record low °C (°F) 4.7
Average rainfall mm (inches) 257.4
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 12.4 10.8 12.1 13.1 15.0 14.8 14.1 15.3 16.9 17.7 14.5 15.7 172.4
Average relative humidity (%) 83.8 87.2 87.1 85.3 87.8 87.4 85.4 85.2 81.7 84.1 80.9 82.9 84.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 214.3 193.6 177.5 142.6 116.2 103.6 126.0 139.6 144.9 166.1 187.7 197.5 1,909.6
Source 1: NIWA Climate Data[12]
Source 2: CliFlo[13]

Hokitika Gorge[edit]

Nearby Hokitika Gorge is a popular short tourist walk, with vibrant blue water and a "swing" (metal rope suspension) bridge.[14][15]


The Hokitika urban area, as defined by Statistics New Zealand, covers 11.78 km2 (4.55 sq mi) and is coterminous with the Hokitika statistical area.[1] The urban area has an estimated population of 3,120 as of June 2023,[2] with a population density of 265 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [16]
World War One Memorial, Cass Square
Memorial for the 1941 shooting, Kowhitirangi
Hokitika Gorge, with swing bridge in the background. The turquoise blue colour is caused by glacial milk.

Before the 2023 census, the town had a smaller boundary, covering 3.91 km2 (1.51 sq mi).[1] Using that boundary, Hokitika had a population of 2,892 at the 2018 New Zealand census, a decrease of 75 people (−2.5%) since the 2013 census, and a decrease of 186 people (−6.0%) since the 2006 census. There were 1,305 households, comprising 1,374 males and 1,521 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.9 males per female. The median age was 47.5 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 459 people (15.9%) aged under 15 years, 474 (16.4%) aged 15 to 29, 1,278 (44.2%) aged 30 to 64, and 687 (23.8%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 86.4% European/Pākehā, 20.1% Māori, 1.7% Pasifika, 4.9% Asian, and 1.3% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 11.6, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people chose not to answer the census's question about religious affiliation, 47.7% had no religion, 41.3% were Christian, 0.4% had Māori religious beliefs, 0.8% were Hindu, 0.4% were Muslim, 0.3% were Buddhist and 1.3% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 330 (13.6%) people had a bachelor's or higher degree, and 654 (26.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $27,300, compared with $31,800 nationally. 318 people (13.1%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 1,146 (47.1%) people were employed full-time, 408 (16.8%) were part-time, and 57 (2.3%) were unemployed.[16]

Economy and culture[edit]

The major industries of greenstone (pounamu), gold, coal, and forestry have all dwindled over the last century, but a growing ecotourism industry has grown up and the town is starting to show signs of recovery. It has become a major tourist stop on the West Coast's main highway route, with carving of greenstone an important local industry. It is also gaining a reputation for its annual wild food festival which has been running since 1990.[17]

Seaview Asylum was once the town's biggest employer.[18]

The Westland Milk factory in Hokitika (2021)

Another important industry is dairying, with Westland Milk Products having its headquarters and main processing plant in the town. Westland Milk Products was established as a dairy co-operative in 1937, and was sold to the Yili Group in 2019.[19] It is the country's third-equal largest dairy processor as of 2018.[20]

Hokitika's Regent Theatre

Hokitika has a 3D digital cinema,[21] the Regent Theatre,[22] due to volunteer hours[23] and grants from the Lions foundation, Lottery's commission, Development West Coast through the Major District Initiative[24] and pub charity. The Art Deco theatre is a heritage building and narrowly avoided being demolished, thanks to a last-minute coup in the management committee.[25] Community performances are also held there. Hokitika has a drama group which produce plays. It is also on the circuit for Arts on Tour and well known artists from many countries as well as New Zealand perform at the Old Lodge Theatre.

Hokitika driftwood sign marks the spot for the Driftwood and Sand Festival. The sign is a popular destination with tourists.

Every January, Hokitika beach hosts the Driftwood and Sand Festival. The festival involves members of the public and a sponsored artist constructing sculptures out of beach debris. Driftwood and Sand originated in beach festival run by Hokitika artist Donald Buglass in November 2002, and it has been run as an annual festival since 2003.[26]

The Hokitika Museum is housed in the town's Carnegie library building. The Hokitika Sock Machine Museum in Revell Street has on display a collection of antique sock-knitting machines. Visitors are invited to knit their own socks.[27] Hokitika also has a modern library, thriving community groups, and many excellent artists.


Arahura Marae is located near Hokitika. It is a marae (tribal meeting ground) of Ngāi Tahu and its Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae branch, and includes the Tūhuru wharenui (meeting house).[28][29]

In October 2020, the Government committed $161,131 from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade the marae, and create four jobs.[30]



State Highway 6 passes through the town.


The first rail transport was the Hokitika & Kanieri Tramway laid with wooden rails was established in 1868, with cars drawn by horses.[31] A road followed in 1873.[32]

A branch line railway known as the Hokitika Branch was established to the town from Greymouth in 1893, and an extension to Ross was open from 1909 to 1980.

Passengers to Hokitika were initially served by mixed trains that carried both goods and passengers. In 1936, these services were augmented by a Leyland diesel railbus service that ran from Hokitika to Greymouth, Christchurch, and briefly Reefton. In the early 1940s, the Vulcan railcars were introduced and they provided a twice-daily service between Ross and Christchurch via Hokitika. The mixed trains continued to operate until 1967, and all passenger services to Hokitika ceased when the Vulcan railcars stopped running past Greymouth in 1972. [citation needed]

Since then, the line to Hokitika has been freight only with traffic primarily coming from Westland Milk Products.


Hokitika Customhouse was built in 1895 when Hokitika was still an official port of entry to New Zealand

In 1865, after the discovery of gold in the area, the town became the official port of entry of the West Coast. A boom period ensued when Hokitika was second only to Auckland, with reports of over 40 ships in the harbour at one time, with more waiting offshore. It was a dangerous port, with 108 strandings and 32 ships lost from 1865 to 1867. The lack of nearby coal meant that the port declined rapidly along with the gold, though Hokitika remained an official entry port until the 1950s.[33]


De Havilland DH-83 Fox Moth ZK-ADI, Air Travel's first aircraft

Air New Zealand provides two flights a day to Christchurch. The Hokitika Airport is adjacent to the town, immediately to the north-east in the suburb of Seaview.

Hokitika's Southside airfield was the base of Air Travel, New Zealand's first airline. Air Travel carried passengers, mail and freight south from Hokitika to the glaciers and remote landing strips beyond Haast and north up to Westport. Its first scheduled flight was in December 1934. Directors were Hokitika residents: Bert Mercer, Paul Renton and Harry Newman.

After the second world war, Air Travel was nationalised and became part of NAC.


A school was described as "recently opened" in Hokitika in 1875, and had nearly 350 students.[34] The Hokitika District High School provided both primary and secondary education for the area for many years. Its name was changed in 1963 to Westland High School, which caters for years 7 to 13 and has a roll of 407.[35]

Hokitika School is a contributing primary (years 1–6) school with a roll of 198.[36]

St Mary's School is a full primary (years 1–8) school with a roll of 118.[37] It is a state integrated Catholic school[38] and is connected with St Mary's Catholic Church.

All these schools are coeducational. Rolls are as of February 2024.[39]

Notable people[edit]

Notable buildings[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Hokitika has one sister city.

In popular culture[edit]

The events of The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, take place within Hokitika. The book won the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

The novel Hokitika Town, by Charlotte Randall, is set in Hokitika.

The 2004 historical novel The Colour by Rose Tremain is partially set in 1860s Hokitika.

The 1999 movie Magik and Rose was set in Hokitika.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ArcGIS Web Application". statsnz.maps.arcgis.com. Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  2. ^ a b c "Subnational population estimates (RC, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (regional councils); "Subnational population estimates (TA, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (territorial authorities); "Subnational population estimates (urban rural), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2023 (2023 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2023. (urban areas)
  3. ^ "Hokitika – NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b Nathan, Simon (1 September 2016). "West Coast region – European arrival and settlement". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  5. ^ Bateman New Zealand historical atlas : ko papatuanuku e takoto nei, McKinnon, Malcolm., Bradley, Barry., Kirkpatrick, Russell., New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. Historical Branch., Terralink NZ Limited., Auckland, N.Z.: David Bateman in association with Historical Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1997, ISBN 1-86953-335-6, OCLC 39014539, retrieved 16 September 2020{{citation}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ "The Arahura Deed, 1860". Ngāi Tahu. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b Goldman, Lazarus Morris (1958). "A Ghost Synagogue". The History of the Jews in New Zealand. Wellington: Reed. pp. 109–112 – via NZETC.
  8. ^ Read, Peter J; Rooney, Mary; West Coast Historical Museum (1999). Enter the crypt: a brief look at some of the famous and not so famous residents of Hokitika's Seaview Cemetery. Hokitika, N.Z.: West Coast Historical Museum. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-473-05854-8. OCLC 154673040.
  9. ^ What is Truth, Newsletter – Friends of the Cathedral, Number 71, September 2007, Cathedral House, Christchurch
  10. ^ "Westland and Seaview hospitals". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  11. ^ H. A. Willis (1979), Manhunt : the story of Stanley Graham, Whitcoulls, ISBN 978-0-7233-0629-0
  12. ^ "Climate data and activities". NIWA. Archived from the original on 20 May 2024. Retrieved 20 May 2024.
  13. ^ "CliFlo – National Climate Database". NIWA. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  14. ^ https://www.backpackerguide.nz/23-unforgettable-walks-hokitika/ "Arguably the most scenic swingbridge in New Zealand!"
  15. ^ "Hokitika Gorge Walk". www.doc.govt.nz. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Hokitika (311500). 2018 Census place summary: Hokitika
  17. ^ "The story so far..." Archived from the original on 3 March 2007.
  18. ^ "Greymouth unit open". The Press. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  19. ^ Carroll, Joanne (4 July 2019). "Sale of Westland Milk Products was 'inevitable'". Stuff. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  20. ^ Fox, Andrea (3 October 2018). "Fonterra hold on raw milk market still 80 per cent despite predictions". NZ Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  21. ^ Xpand news Archived 9 February 2013 at archive.today
  22. ^ "Hokitika's Regent Theatre – movie times & tickets". www.hokitikaregent.com. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Regent Theatre in Hokitika, NZ – Cinema Treasures". cinematreasures.org. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  24. ^ "$340k funding". Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  25. ^ "today 3d article". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  26. ^ Carroll, Joanne (24 January 2017). "Driftwood becomes art in Hokitika Beach festival". Stuff. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  27. ^ Hokitika Activity Guide.
  28. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". tkm.govt.nz. Te Puni Kōkiri.
  29. ^ "Māori Maps". maorimaps.com. Te Potiki National Trust.
  30. ^ "Marae Announcements" (Excel). growregions.govt.nz. Provincial Growth Fund. 9 October 2020.
  31. ^ Rogers, p 63
  32. ^ Rogers, Anna (2005). Illustrated History of the West Coast. p. 63. ISBN 0-7900-1022-4.
  33. ^ "Hokitika Customhouse". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  34. ^ "Hokitika School". No. 3129. West Coast Times. 15 October 1875. p. 2.
  35. ^ Education Counts: Westland High School
  36. ^ Education Counts: Hokitika School
  37. ^ Education Counts: St Mary's School
  38. ^ "Education Review Report: St Mary's School Hokitika". Education Review Office. May 2008.
  39. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  40. ^ "Magik and Rose". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 18 September 2020.

External links[edit]