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City-end Karori from Wrights Hill summit
City-end Karori from Wrights Hill summit
Karori is located in New Zealand
Karori is located in New Zealand Wellington
Coordinates: 41°17′05″S 174°44′12″E / 41.284855°S 174.736795°E / -41.284855; 174.736795Coordinates: 41°17′05″S 174°44′12″E / 41.284855°S 174.736795°E / -41.284855; 174.736795
CountryNew Zealand
Local authorityWellington City
Electoral wardOnslow-Western
 • Land1,726 ha (4,265 acres)
 • Total14,736
Mākara Wilton
Highbury, Taitville

Karori is a suburb located at the western edge of the urban area of Wellington, New Zealand, 4 km from the city centre[2] and is one of New Zealand's biggest suburbs,[2] with a population of over 14,000 at the time of the 2013 census.[1] It is a common misconception that Karori is in fact the most populous suburb in the Wellington region. But Wainuiomata leads with its population of 16,786 at the time of the 2013 census.



The name Karori means "the rope of bird snares" in te reo Māori.[3] Originally forested, Māori used the Karori area for hunting. It also had tracks crossing it that led to the Māori pas on the west coast.[4]

No Māori lived in the area[5] when the first European settlers came to Karori in the 1840s, having bought the land from the New Zealand Company. The first settler in Karori, John Yule of Glasgow,[6] cleared 20 acres of forest on his section with his younger brother Moses and advertised its sale in December 1841.[7]:9 By 1845, ten 100-acre sections were being taken up and sub-divided, and Karori recorded 215 inhabitants – 109 of them under the age of 14 years.[7]:11

In 1845 a group of armed police from Wellington constructed a small fortified post that became known as "The Stockade" in response to fears of attacks from nearby Māori insurgents. While there were no attacks, the stockade was used for a church service and to grind grain.[7]:15 The stockade was located on Mr Chapman's land, about halfway along what is now Marsden Avenue.[8]

The first mental hospital in Wellington was built[by whom?] in 1854.[7]:17 By 1871 it had 23 inmates and was run by untrained staff, which resulted in the first matron and her husband being dismissed in 1872 because of cruelty.[6] In 1873 the asylum moved from Karori to the site of present-day Government House in central Wellington.[6] Karori School took over the asylum site in 1875.[7]:23

Frederick Mackie in his book Traveller under concern described Karori in the 1850s:

"The walk was highly romantic. The road is cut out of the sides of steep hills covered with forest. The ever-winding road, the steep declivities, the forest above and below you, and the continual murmur of streams concealed in the depths below were very pleasing, as every few yards a new scene and fresh objects were brought to view. In one spot I obtained a view of the harbour, which today was like a bright glassy lake, and beyond it were the lofty ranges of the snow-clad Rimutaka and Tararuas, partly glistening in the sun and partly shrouded in cloud."[9]

Karori gold rush[edit]

Karori experienced a gold rush when the valley of the Upper Kaiwharawhara Stream became subject to intensive gold-mining activity between 1869 and 1873. This activity eventually led to the building of the lower Karori Dam in 1873.[10] At the height of the rush, about 200 men worked the claims, driving shafts and drives up to 500 feet in length into the hills.[7]:29

Growth and subdivision[edit]

In 1888 a syndicate purchased section 34, which was the closest to town (running from present day Ponsonby Road to Cooper Street). The new owners prepared the land for sale by building roads and naming them after the members of the syndicate and their families, and by running a marketing campaign, including providing free buses from Manners Street and writing poems:

In far-famed New Zealand, the evergreen free land
Most favoured and beautiful Queen of the wave,
Where the sun ever smiling, bad weather beguiling,
Brightly shines on the face of the honest and brave.
Tho' for Europe's bold races there are plenty of places
Adapted as homes for the great and the small,
Yet, for onward progressing and bountiful blessing
There is one whose position is far before all.
So haste where kind Nature's arrayed in her glory,
To pleasant, romantic, suburban Karori.[7]:30–31

Karori Borough, 1891–1920[edit]

Karori was a part of Hutt County from the County's establishment in 1877 to 1891 when Karori was declared a separate borough following a petition in favour of forming a borough with 123 signatories. A counter-petition garnered 41 signatories.[7]:31–32

List of Mayors of Karori Borough[edit]

# Name Term
1 Stephen Lancaster 1891–1894
2 Richard Bulkley 1894–1901
3 F.J. McDonald 1901–1902
4 E.C Farr 1902
5 J.B. Tarr 1902–1903
6 W.H. Tisdall 1903–1904
7 A.C. Pearce 1904–1908
8 C. A. Dasent 1908–1911
9 C. Cathie 1911–1914
10 W.T Hildreth 1914–1915
11 B.G.H. Burn 1915–1920

Amalgamation with Wellington, 1920[edit]

Both Wellington and Karori expanded towards each other, the two urban areas becoming gradually connected, aided by the construction of the Karori tunnel in 1901,[11] and the Borough of Karori amalgamated with the City of Wellington in 1920.[12]

Karori sport teams[edit]

Waterside Karori association football club founded when Karori Swifts and Waterside (a club based in Kaiwharawhara) merged.

  • Karori United Tennis Club based in Karori.[13]
  • Karori Amateur Athletics Club[14]
  • Karori Cricket Club [15]
  • Karori Netball Club [16]
  • Karori Bowling Club [17]

Karori Historical Society[edit]

Karori Historical Society is one of many historical societies of Aotearoa New Zealand, membership application is open to all residents and citizens of New Zealand. The activities include publishing books about the history of Karori and there are many titles listed on their website for example Karori and its People and Karori Streets 1841–1991. The book Karori Streets was updated in 2019 and is about the European settlement of the suburb. Original authors are Will Chapman and historian Katherine (Kitty) Wood who was born in 1912. Judith Burch is the president of Karori historical society and co-author of the book, Karori and its People.[18] The other author is Jan Heynes, also the vice president of the society. Heynes has family connections in Karori from in the early 1900s through the Kirkcaldie family.[18][19][20]

Notable persons[edit]


City-end Karori from Wrights Hill

Parks and reserves[edit]

Zealandia (formerly called the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) is an enclosed restoration project focusing on the flora and fauna that inhabited the valley before human settlement.[21]

Karori Park, on Karori Road features a football and cricket sports ground, all-weather track, changing rooms and play area.[22]

Ben Burn Park, on Campbell Street features a football and cricket sports ground, changing rooms, athletics, play area and artificial cricket surfaces.[22]

Wrights Hill Reserve in southern Karori features mountain bike and walking tracks and the historic Wrights Hill Fortress with a network of tunnels and gun emplacements overlooking the valley.[23]

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park in southern Karori has over 40 km of mountain bike and walking tracks built by the mountain biking community and is recognised as a world-class area dedicated to mountain biking.[24]

Karori pool[edit]

Interior of Karori swimming pool showing the children's pool in the foreground and the main 25m lane pool at the rear

Karori pool is a modern indoor swimming complex with a 25-meter heated pool, learners' pool, toddlers' pool, spa pool and a 30-meter hydro-slide.[25] The pool was originally an outdoor facility first opened in 1936.[26] The pool was converted to an indoor pool in 2001[27] and additional work in 2010 added the hydro-slide.[28] The pool is home to the Karori Pirates swimming club.[29]


The centre of Karori contains a shopping mall, a café, and other amenities.


Karori Library showing the building from across the street
Karori Library (2020) from across the street
Karori Library – view of entrance taken from outside the library
Karori Library (2020) view of entrance

Karori Library opened in the 1840s, operating out of the community hall at the site of the present day library on Karori Road. In November 2005, the current two-level library and café were opened.[30] The architects were Warren and Mahoney and the building received critical acclaim receiving this review in Architecture New Zealand: "The Karori library is a box of light that shines brightly in an overcast suburb. The relationship to the street is a model for all those who design for the outer city."[31]

Community garden[edit]

The Karori Community Garden was founded in 2015 by Paul Stevenson. It is located at 21 Beauchamp Street, behind the Beauchamp Street Chapel.[32][33]

Churches and cemeteries[edit]

Karori Cemetery is the second-largest in New Zealand.[11][34] Opened in 1891, it replaced the cemetery at Bolton Street as the main burial ground for the inhabitants of Wellington. It covers 100 acres / 40 hectares. The Small Chapel contains excellent stained glass windows designed by Wilhelmina Geddes. The cemetery contains the war graves of 267 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I and 123 of World War II, in separate plots for each war, the plots being linked by the Wellington Provincial Memorial (in the form of a marble archway) which commemorates 65 World War I and 20 World War II military personnel from the Wellington Military District who died abroad and have no known grave (most were buried at sea).[35] Karori Cemetery "closed" in 1965 for the establishment of new burial plots, but interments in established graves continue.

Futuna Chapel, built in 1961 by the Society of Mary, was awarded New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold medal for best building in 1968.[36] The chapel was deconsecrated in 2000 and was sold to a property developer who planned to clear the section for residential development.[36] The building was saved when it was listed as a heritage building and is being restored by a Charitable Trust.[37]

Other churches in Karori include:

  • Karori Anglican Church[38]
  • Karori Baptist Church[39]
  • Catholic Church St Theresa[40]
  • St Anselm's Union Church[41]
  • St Ninian's Uniting[42]
  • St Mary's Anglican Church[43]

Public transport[edit]

Until 31 October 2017, the full length of Karori Road was served by the Karori Park trolley bus route, which replaced the former tram service in 1954. For many years vehicles on this route ran as Route 12 to Courtenay Place, but are now designated as Route 2 and through-routed to and from Seatoun via the city. The weekday ten-minute service is the most-frequent of all Wellington routes. Other routes serving the suburb are Route 18e which runs through Kelburn to Miramar via Massey University, Route 21 which runs up Birdwood St, and down Beauchamp St from Courtenay Place, and Routes 33 and 34 which run from Brandon St in the city centre to either Karori South or Karori West.


School enrolment zone[edit]

Karori is within the enrolment zones for Wellington College, Wellington Girls' College, Wellington High School, St Oran's College, Karori West Normal School, and Karori Normal School.[44]

Wellington Teachers' Training College[edit]

Stage one of purpose built faculties to hold the Wellington Teachers' Training College were complete in 1969 on the site 26-40 Donald Street. It has a rich history with many notable New Zealanders attended and teaching there. Other names include the Wellington College of Education. This campus was the home of Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Education briefly with some controversy until 2016 when the Faculty moved to the Kelburn campus.[45][46] Construction of a retirement village on the site is underway in 2020 with the company Ryman purchasing the site in 2017.[47]

Secondary school[edit]

Samuel Marsden Collegiate School is a composite private Anglican girls' school on Karori Road in Marsden Village. It offers classes from new entrants to Year 13. In 2014 it had a roll of 502.[48]

Public primary schools[edit]

Karori Normal School is a co-educational state primary school for Year 1 to 8 students,[49] with a roll of 688 as of March 2020.[50]

It was founded in 1857 and is the second-largest full primary school in New Zealand. It has an artificial turf, two playgrounds, 35 classrooms in approximately four buildings, a concrete field, and a grass field.[51] The author Katherine Mansfield attended the school from 1895–98 and there is a memorial to her at the school on a concrete field called the Katherine Mansfield field, located in front of a tree she wrote about in one of her stories.[52]

Karori West Normal School is a co-educational state primary school for Year 1 to 8 students,[53][54] with a roll of 522.[55]

Christian schools[edit]

Samuel Marsden Collegiate School Karori is an Anglican girls' school for Year 1 to 13 students,[56] founded in 1878.[57] It has a roll of 492 as of March 2020.[58]

St Teresa's School is a co-educational state-integrated Catholic school for Year 1 to 8 students,[59][60] with a roll of 132 as of March 2020.[61]


There are a number of preschool education providers in Karori, including:

  • Karori Playcentre
  • Marsden Preschool
  • Karori Kindercare[62]
  • Donald Street Preschool[63]
  • Karori Kids Preschool[64]
  • Karori Childcare Centre[65]
  • Karori Plunket Creche
  • St Mary's Early Childhood Education Centre[66]
  • Sunshine Kindergarten
  • Kiwi Kids Preschool
Karori as seen from Johnsons Hill


  1. ^ a b c "Community Profile: Karori".
  2. ^ a b Jago, Francesca (16 December 2014). "Let's live in... Karori". Stuff. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  3. ^ Maclean, Chris. "Story: Wellington places – Page 4 – Western suburbs". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  4. ^ Karori Local History, Wellington City Library, retrieved 20 February 2020
  5. ^ Brodie, J (1973). "The Stockade Vol. 1 No. 1". Karori Historical Society. p. 3. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Dekker, Diana (30 July 2011). "Conquering Karori". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Patrick, Margaret (1990). From Bush to Suburb, Karori 1840–1980. The Karori Historical Society (Inc).
  8. ^ Karori Stockade, retrieved 25 July 2017
  9. ^ Mackie, Frederick (1973). Traveller under concern: the Quaker journals of Frederick Mackie on his tour of the Australasian colonies, 1852–1855. University of Tasmania. p. 119. ISBN 0859010074.
  10. ^ Brodie, James (1997). The Karori Gold Rush 1869–1873. The Karori Historical Society (Inc). ISBN 0-473-04773-X.
  11. ^ a b Rutherford, Rebecca (19 July 2013). "Early access to the Western hills". The Wellingtonian. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Karori". Wellington Local History. Wellington City Libraries. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  13. ^ "Karori United Tennis Club". Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Karori Amateur Athletics Club". Karori Amateur Athletics Club. SportsTG. Retrieved 1 October 2018. Welcome to Karori Athletics – over 100 years of athletics in Karori
  15. ^ "Karori Cricket Club". Karori Cricket Club. Karori Cricket Club. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Karori Netball Club". Karori Netball Club. SportsTG. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  17. ^ "Karori Bowling Club". Karori Bowling Club. Sporty. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Karori Historical Society". Karori Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2020-04-29. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  19. ^ Thomson, Rebecca (2012-03-01). "Signing up to history". Stuff. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  20. ^ "Interview with Kitty Wood". National Library of New Zealand. 1997-12-12. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  21. ^ "Zealandia". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  22. ^ a b "Sportsgrounds Locations". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  23. ^ "Wrights Hill". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  24. ^ "Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
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  26. ^ Thomson, Rebecca (October 2, 2015). "Mayor takes a dive into Karori's new pool – 150 Years of News". Stuff. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
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  29. ^ "Karori Pirates". Retrieved 5 October 2015.
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  36. ^ a b "Futuna Chapel Special" (PDF). Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  37. ^ "Karori's hidden treasure". The Dominion Post. 12 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  38. ^ "Karori Anglican Church". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Karori Baptist Church". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  40. ^ "Catholic Church St Theresa". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  41. ^ "St Anselms Union Church". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  42. ^ "St Ninians Uniting". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  43. ^ "St Mary's Anglican Church". Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  44. ^ "eLearning Schools Search". Ministry of Education.
  45. ^ Astwood, Karen; Dangerfield, Alison (2018-04-27). "Search the List | Wellington Teachers' Training College (Former) | Heritage New Zealand". Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Natasha Naus, Annwyn Tobin and Blyss Wagstaff. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  46. ^ "Council 'uninformed' over teachers college sale, says Uni". RNZ. 2017-03-18. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
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