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For other uses, see Wairarapa (disambiguation).

Wairarapa (/ˌwaɪərəˈræpə/; 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 is mainly in the Wellington local government region, with some of the northern section in the Manawatu-Wanganui or Hawke's Bay regions.

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.


The name means "Glistening Waters", and is said to have been applied by an early Māori explorer, Huanui, who saw the rivers and lake from the mountains to the west.

Rangitane and Ngāti Kahungunu were the Māori tribes (iwi) in the area when European explorers arrived in the 1770s.

European settlement began in the early 1840s, initially on large grazing runs leased from Māori, and with closer settlement from the 1850s.

On 23 January 1855 the region was hit by the strongest earthquake recorded in New Zealand, which reached Magnitude 8.2 on the Richter Scale. There were five deaths.


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.

Many residents, especially in the southern towns such as Featherston and Greytown, commute to work in Wellington, either by train or over the Rimutaka Ranges by car.


Many of New Zealand's endangered native birds can be seen at the Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre, which is just south of Eketahuna.

Famous people born in Wairarapa[edit]

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