Petone (Māori: Pito-one), a large suburb of Lower Hutt, Wellington, stands at the southern end of the Hutt Valley, on the northern shore of Wellington Harbour. The Māori name Pito-one means "end of the sand beach".[3]

Aerial view of Petone and Seaview
Aerial view of Petone and Seaview
CountryNew Zealand
CityLower Hutt
Local authorityHutt City Council
Electoral wardHarbour
Community boardPetone Community Board[1]
 • Land390 ha (960 acres)
 (June 2021)[2]
 • Total8,230
Train station(s)Petone Railway Station
Ava Railway Station
Korokoro Maungaraki Alicetown
Wellington Harbour Seaview
Petone Wharf on a stormy day

Europeans first settled in Petone in 1840, making it one of the oldest European settlements in the Wellington Region. It became a borough in 1888, and merged with Lower Hutt (branded as "Hutt City") in 1989.


Petone is flat. It is nestled between the Hutt River to the north and east, hills on the west and Wellington Harbour to the south. The land along the Petone foreshore was uplifted by a metre or more after the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake. This improved drainage around the mouth of the Hutt River.[4][5] The foreshore at Petone has a shallow sandy beach formed by sediment from the Hutt River[6] which is a popular family swimming spot. The Korokoro Stream comes down off the hills at the western side of Petone.

As a low-lying suburb, Petone is vulnerable to tsunami[7] and the threat of flooding. During a severe storm on 20 December 1976, the Korokoro Stream caused flooding almost a metre deep in the industrial area of Petone around Cornish Street, and more than 40 people had to be rescued from factory roofs.[8][9]


A substantial Maori (fortified settlement) was already established at Pito-one close to the beach when the first European settlers arrived in the region. The first European settlers in large numbers arrived on 22 January 1840, on the ship Aurora[10] which brought 25 married couples, 36 single persons and 40 children.

The locality was described as, "sandy beach, which is about two miles long ... bounded on either side by wooded hills from 300 to 400 feet in height. It was covered in high forest to within a mile and a half of the beach, when swamps full of flax (New Zealand flax) and a belt of sand hummocks intervened." The Maori from the nearby pā came to meet them, one passenger's diary recording, "the venerable old chief Te Puni ... together with sons and endless relatives and a pa full of natives who were delighted to greet us with 'Kapai-te-Pakeha' and other expressions of greeting".

A beach settlement of small wooden houses and tents was established, which was initially called Britannia. The earliest European settlers found life hard. Nevertheless, the settlement grew: the population of "Pito-one and Hutt" in 1845 was given as 649, compared to, "Town of Wellington" of 2,667. In 1850 the Maori pā at Pito-one was described as "the largest and best fortified within the District of Wellington ... their cultivations of kumara and maize look well and the residents, in point of comfort and wealth, are better off than any of the Port Nicholson natives ... total population 136".[11] There was horse racing at Pito-one Beach on 20 October 1842, attracting a crowd of five or six hundred people from Wellington.[12]

Petone was the first European settlement in the Wellington region and retains many historical buildings and landmarks. After repeated flooding, settlers moved south around the harbour to Thorndon.[13] Thorndon is at the shore of what is now the city of Wellington, New Zealand's capital.

For much of the 20th century, Petone was a thriving, largely working-class town and the location of several large industrial sites, including car assembly plants, a meat processing plant, a wool processing plant, a tobacco processing plant,[14] a soap factory and a toothpaste factory.[15] The majority of these closed in the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in gradual economic decline in the area. One remnant of this industrial history is the Petone Wharf. The original wharf was built to allow the Gear Meat Works to move its products quickly to Wellington for export.[16] This wharf was demolished and the current wharf built slightly north along the shore in 1907.

Defunct Petone industriesEdit

  • Petone Railway Workshops 1876 – 1929
  • Gear Meat Company 1882 – 1981
  • Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Company 1883 – 1968 (company founded 1883, manufacture began at Petone in 1886)[5]
  • Lever Brothers soap factory (later became Unilever) 1919 – 2015[17][18]
  • W.D. & H.O. Wills tobacco factory 1919 – 2020[19]
  • New Zealand Motor Bodies vehicle assembly plant 1926 – 1978[20][21]
  • General Motors vehicle assembly plant 1926 – 1984[5]
  • Todd Motors vehicle assembly plant 1935 – 1974.[5] The company closed the Petone factory after building a new plant at Porirua in the early 1970s.
  • Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste and toiletries factory 1939 – 2007[22]
  • Austin Motor Industries vehicle assembly plant (later New Zealand Motor Corporation, then Emco Group) 1946 – 1983[5][23]

Petone gained borough status in 1888. The borough's first coat of arms had images representing the Gear Meat Company, the woollen mills and the railway workshops, showing how important these businesses were to the local economy.[24] Petone Borough[25] amalgamated with Lower Hutt as a result of the local government reform in 1989. The suburb has since enjoyed renewed economic growth, using its early European heritage as a draw for tourists and gaining many cafes and shops.

Petone is home to the Petone Rugby Club founded in 1885.

State housingEdit

Some of New Zealand's first state housing was constructed in Petone in 1906, with some of the original houses remaining in good condition. The local tourist office provides a guide showing where these houses are located. Star Flats (state housing apartment blocks built in the 1960s) are located in Jackson Street and East Street.


Petone, comprising the statistical areas of Petone Central, Petone East and Petone Esplanade, covers 3.90 km2 (1.51 sq mi).[26] It had an estimated population of 8,230 as of June 2021, with a population density of 2,110 people per km2.

Typical wooden house in Petone
Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [27]

Petone had a population of 7,491 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 816 people (12.2%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 945 people (14.4%) since the 2006 census. There were 2,955 households. There were 3,753 males and 3,738 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.0 males per female, with 1,167 people (15.6%) aged under 15 years, 1,650 (22.0%) aged 15 to 29, 3,492 (46.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 1,188 (15.9%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 71.6% European/Pākehā, 15.5% Māori, 8.2% Pacific peoples, 16.1% Asian, and 2.4% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 28.0%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 48.4% had no religion, 35.0% were Christian, 4.9% were Hindu, 0.8% were Muslim, 0.9% were Buddhist and 4.5% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 2,046 (32.4%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 852 (13.5%) people had no formal qualifications. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 3,468 (54.8%) people were employed full-time, 795 (12.6%) were part-time, and 261 (4.1%) were unemployed.[27]

Individual statistical areas
Name Population Households Median age Median income
Petone Central 954 339 34.7 years $39,900[28]
Petone East 3,906 1,569 39.4 years $34,600[29]
Petone Esplanade 2,631 1,047 36.1 years $39,500[30]
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800
Te Puna Wai Ora fountain at Buick Street.

Points of interestEdit

  • The Te Puna Wai Ora (Spring of Life) in Buick Street provides pure untreated artesian (underground pressured) water from taps. The water originates from the Hutt River at the Taita Gorge and is safe to drink in its natural form as it has been naturally filtered through the alluvial gravels and sands of the Hutt Valley over several years. It is free, and consumers travel long distances to collect the water for drinking purposes.[31]
  • Jackson Street: Petone's main street has over 220 businesses (most are small businesses), has free parking, and is listed by Heritage New Zealand as a historic area.[32] Petone's former police station and jail, built in 1908, were moved to a site on Jackson Street in 1994. The jail became a museum with exhibits about policing in Petone and the history of Jackson Street.[33] Jackson Street also features a 'Walk of Champions': over 180 bronze plaques have been laid on the footpath to commemorate local sportspeople who have represented New Zealand or become national champions in their sport.[34]
  • Petone Settlers Museum is housed in the Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial Building on the Petone foreshore.
  • The Hōniana Te Puni-kōkopu memorial is in the Te Puni Street urūpa (burial ground).[35]
  • Hikoikoi Reserve is a park and walkway at the mouth of the Hutt River. It features a disc-golf course.[36] The reserve was the site of Ngati Awa's Hikoikoi Pa.[37]

Petone Rotary FairEdit

Scenes from the Petone Rotary Fair

The Petone Rotary Fair is a notable local event, held annually since 1992, that draws people from all over the greater Wellington region to Jackson Street, Petone's main thoroughfare, which is closed off to traffic for the event.

The purpose of the fair is not only to raise the profile of Petone and provide an enjoyable day out, but to raise money for charity. The fair consists of various stalls selling products such as plants, artwork, jewellery, CDs & DVDs, cosmetics, food and drink, etc., and there are musicians, carnival rides, and displays from various organisations such as the New Zealand Fire Service.


Petone has three schools:

  • Petone Central School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school in central Petone, with 92 students as of July 2022.[38]
  • Sacred Heart School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary (Year 1–8) school in central Petone, and has 153 students as of July 2022.[38]
  • Wilford School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school in north-eastern Petone, and has 249 students as of July 2022.[38]

Since Petone College closed in 1998, Hutt Valley High School in central Lower Hutt has been the nearest state secondary school to Petone.

The main campus of the Wellington Institute of Technology (Weltec) is located in Petone.


  1. ^ "Hutt City Wards and Suburbs" (PDF). Hutt City Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  3. ^ Te Ara: The encyclopaedia of New Zealand – Hutt Valley – south Retrieved: 13 January 2009 – "The first European immigrants settled at Pito-one (‘the end of the sand beach’), now known as Petone."
  4. ^ Grapes, Rodney; Downes, Gaye (December 1997). "The 1855 Wairarapa, New Zealand Earthquake - Analysis of Historical Data" (PDF). Bulletin of the New Zealand National Society for Earthquake Engineering. 30, no. 4: 309.
  5. ^ a b c d e Butterworth, Susan (1988). Petone: A History. Petone, New Zealand: Petone Borough Council. ISBN 0908596308.
  6. ^ Boffa Miskell (April 2012). Hutt Landscape Study 2012 (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand: Greater Wellington Regional Council.
  7. ^ "Petone Alicetown Tsunami Map" (PDF). Wellington Region Emergency Management Office. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  8. ^ "December 1976 Wellington Flooding ( 1976-12-20 )". NIWA. 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  9. ^ O'Neil, Andrea (13 May 2015). "150 years of news - Wellington's history flooded with devastation". Stuff. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  10. ^ "First European settlers arrive in Wellington". 22 October 2013.
  11. ^ "[untitled]". Wellington Independent. 31 August 1850. Retrieved 2 May 2022 – via Paperspast.
  12. ^ "Early Wellington" compiled by Louis E. Ward, Whitcomb and Tombs Ltd 1929.
  13. ^ "Petone". Retrieved 7 May 2020. ... flooding led many settlers to leave Petone for a new site at Thorndon.
  14. ^ "Imperial Tobacco plans to close Petone factory". Stuff. Retrieved 7 May 2020. A spokeswoman, Louise Evans McDonald, said Imperial had owned the factory since the late 1990s, but the site itself had been used for making tobacco products since 1919, initially under the name WD & HO Wills.
  15. ^ "Another blow to Hutt City's business sector". NZ Herald. 1 November 2006. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 7 May 2020. After more the 50 years of operating and despite turning a profit, the Colgate Palmolive factory in Petone is closing next year, bringing the loss of around 100 jobs.
  16. ^ "Petone Foreshore". Hutt City Council. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  17. ^ Chipp, Jim (14 January 2014). "A look back at Unilever Petone". Stuff. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  18. ^ "Developer snaps up Unilever site". Stuff. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  19. ^ Tso, Matthew (11 June 2021). "Demolition begins on Petone's century-old tobacco factory to make way for houses, business park". Stuff. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  20. ^ "New Zealand Motor Bodies plant, Keith Street". Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  21. ^ "New Zealand Motor Bodies Limited. - Petone's First 100 Years (1940)". Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  22. ^ "Another blow to Hutt City's business sector". NZ Herald. 2 November 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  23. ^ "New assembly plant: 5000 vehicles a year". Gisborne Herald. 5 June 1946. Retrieved 30 April 2022 – via Paperspast.
  24. ^ Johnston, Warwick (2012). The Gear: A history of the Gear Meat Preserving and Freezing Company. Petone Historical Society. ISBN 978-1-877572-51-7.
  25. ^ "Petone Borough". NZGB Gazetteer. LINZ. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  26. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Petone Central (243700), Petone East (244700) and Petone Esplanade (245000).
  28. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Petone Central
  29. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Petone East
  30. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Petone Esplanade
  31. ^ Hutt City – Petone's Artesian Water Archived 13 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 5 April 2012
  32. ^ "Jackson Street Historic Area". Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  33. ^ "Old Jail Museum". Jackson Street Programme. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  34. ^ "Tour Petone". Jackson Street Programme. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  35. ^ "Honiana Te Puni NZ Wars memorial". NZ History. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  36. ^ "Hikoikoi Reserve Disc Golf Course". Disc Golf New Zealand. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  37. ^ "Leg 4 – Seaview to Petone | Great Harbour Way/Te Aranui o Pōneke". Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  38. ^ a b c "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 19 August 2022.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 41°13′30.00″S 174°52′40.80″E / 41.2250000°S 174.8780000°E / -41.2250000; 174.8780000