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Featherston, New Zealand

Featherston (Māori: Paetūmōkai) is a town in the South Wairarapa District, in the Wellington Region of New Zealand's North Island. It is at the eastern foothills of Remutaka Range close to the northern shore of Lake Wairarapa, 63 km (39 mi) north-east of central Wellington and 37 km (23 mi) south-west of Masterton.


Paetūmōkai (Māori)
Fitzherbert Street in Featherston
Fitzherbert Street in Featherston
Featherston is located in New Zealand
Coordinates: 41°7′S 175°19′E / 41.117°S 175.317°E / -41.117; 175.317Coordinates: 41°7′S 175°19′E / 41.117°S 175.317°E / -41.117; 175.317
Country New Zealand
Territorial authoritySouth Wairarapa District
Named forIsaac Featherston
 (June 2018)[1]
 • Total2,480
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)06

The town has a population of 2,480 (June 2018).[1] Featherston has increasingly become a satellite town of Wellington since the Rimutaka rail tunnel opened in 1955 on the Wairarapa Line; at the 2006 census, 36% of employed Featherston residents worked in the Wellington metro area.[2] This proximity to the capital, coupled with low house prices, has made Featherston popular with writers, artists and those with young families, in turn leading to a recent upsurge in business investment and creative activity.[3]


Wairarapa Moana (Lake Wairarapa) was among the first areas settled in New Zealand with sites dating back some 800 years. Fish and waterfowl were plentiful, but the major draw card was tuna – the native freshwater eel. Tuna could be caught in vast quantities during their seasonal migration to the sea, and the catch could be dried for storage or trading. Seasonal eeling settlements dotted the edge of Wairarapa Moana with several permanent settlements on the surrounding higher ground.[4]

Featherston's library, Heritage register No 3976

The town of Featherston was first known as Burlings, after Henry Burling, who opened an accommodation house near the Māori settlement of Pae-O-Tu-Mokai in 1847. In 1856 the provincial government surveyed the spot for a town, naming it after its superintendent, Isaac Featherston.[5]

Featherston Camp in 1916

The Featherston Military Camp was a major training camp in World War I, established in 1916 and housing up to 8000 men. The camp was larger than the town and included 16 dining halls, six cookhouses, 17 shops, a picture theatre, hospital, and post office. After training, infantrymen marched over the Remutaka Range for embarkation at Wellington.[6]

During World War II, in 1942 it became the Featherston prisoner of war camp, holding 800 Japanese POWs captured in the South Pacific. On February 25, 1943 an incident occurred where 122 Japanese Prisoners of War in the camp were shot (48 dead, 74 wounded). Tension had been building for weeks before a group of recently arrived prisoners staged a sit-down strike and refused to work. Guards fired a warning shot, wounding Lieutenant Adachi Toshio. The prisoners then rose and the guards opened fire. Wartime censors kept details of the incident quiet to prevent Japanese reprisals against Allied POWs. After the war, the first POW to return to Featherston burned incense at the site in 1974 and a joint New Zealand–Japanese project established a memorial ground, located 2 km north of the town on State Highway 2.

Featherston houses the world's only surviving Fell locomotive engine in the Fell Engine Museum.[7] The locomotive system operated successfully for 77 years from 1878 to 1955. Remnants of the trains and the once busy settlement are visible on the Remutaka Rail Trail Cycleway.

Recreation, culture and sportEdit

The Anzac Hall was built in 1916 to give ‘A place of resort, recreation and amusement for all those who are now or have been or may be during the term of the war employed in the military or naval service of the Crown’.[8] A large beautiful wooden hall with two smaller rooms, it was restored for its centennial and is a Category 1 historic place.[9] It now serves as a town hall and community hub, used for concerts, events and meetings.

Royal Hotel, Featherston

Lake Wairarapa Domain is a popular recreation area for walks, cycling and motorcycling, plus fishing, birdwatching and exploring the wetlands.

In 2015, Featherston joined the Booktown movement, and hosts an annual literary festival and other bookish events through the year. Other annual events include winter's Time Traveller's Ball, a summer series of Featherston First Friday community arts nights,[10] and the Cross Creek Rail Society's Mini Train Carnival. The Royal Hotel re-opened in December 2017 after extensive renovations, with a steampunk theme allowing them pay homage to the town's literary and historical threads.

Featherston has various sporting clubs including the rugby union football club, a hockey club,[11] athletics club, swimming club, football club and an indoor sports complex which hosts various activities such as badminton, gymnastic clubs, wrestling etc.


There are two primary schools within Featherston; St. Teresa's School and Featherston School | Te Kura o Paetumokai. Kahutara Primary[12] and South Featherston School[13] are nearby. Featherston once had a secondary school (Featherston District High School) that closed in the mid 1960s.


Featherston is at the junction of State Highway 2 and State Highway 53. SH 2 connects Featherston south to Wellington via the Remutaka Pass and the Hutt Valley, and north to Masterton via Greytown and Carterton and onwards to Woodville. SH 53 connects SH 2 and Featherston with Martinborough.

Featherston is served by Featherston railway station on the Wairarapa Line railway. The Wairarapa Connection train serves Featherston on its route between Masterton and Wellington, operating five times daily each way on weekdays (twice daily each way on weekends). The journey time to Wellington station is just over 60 minutes.[14]

Sister citiesEdit

Featherston is twinned with the Belgian city of Mesen.

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ a b "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2017 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Commuting patterns in Wellington -- Commuting patterns in New Zealand, 1996-2006". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Featherston forges ahead - Times Age". Times Age. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  4. ^ "History | Greater Wellington Regional Council". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  5. ^ "Featherston | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  6. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "8. – Wairarapa places – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  7. ^ "Featherston Travel Guide". Jasons Travel Media. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  8. ^ "Anzac Club (Anzac Hall) Featherston - WW100 - Wairarapa's First World War Centenary". Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  9. ^ "Anzac Hall restoration | WW100 New Zealand". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  10. ^ "About". Featherston, Wairarapa. 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  11. ^ "Hockey Wairarapa - Home". Archived from the original on May 26, 2010. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  12. ^ "Welcome to Kahutara School – High achievement for every child while maintaining our warm family environment". Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  13. ^ "South Featherston School at". Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  14. ^ "Wairarapa Line (Masterton - Wellington) - Metlink".