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Our history

Learn about our history, from 1864 to the present.

Early days

On 23 July 1864 a block of approximately 250,000 acres, known as Te Ahu-a-Turanga, was sold by the Rangitāne people to the government as a means of opening up the Manawatū for settlement. The land stretched from Apiti in the north, to north of Shannon in the south, and was bound by the ranges in the east and the Oroua River in the west.


As part of the Wellington Provincial Council, the land was subdivided and surveyed, and a town was laid out. The town site chosen was ideally situated in the south of the block, on a flat, open clearing named Papaioea, sufficiently away from the river to avoid flooding.

A town called Palmerston North

The township officially came into existence 3 October 1866 and was given the name Palmerston, after a British statesman, the 3rd Viscount Palmerston. Confusion, however, due to another Palmerston in the South Island, resulted in 'North' being added by the postal authorities in 1871. This became a permanent fixture in 1877.

A new Borough Council

As the population grew so too did local interest in self governance. First, requests to the Wellington Provincial Council resulted in the elevation of the town to a Local Board District in 1876, with limited powers of control. Not seen as satisfactory, hopes were again raised later that year when the Government abolished provinces and replaced them with counties and boroughs. Palmerston North, however, found itself placed within the Manawatū County Council, administered from Foxton, fuelling an even greater desire for autonomy. Finally, a petition to the Governor resulted in Palmerston North being declared a borough in its own right 12 July 1877.

The first Mayor of Palmerston North

When the first Borough Council was elected 9 August 1877, George Snelson became Mayor of a small developing town, with a population of about 800. This was to become the transport hub and service centre for the developing district.

Becoming a city

The population grew steadily over the years and a milestone was reached on 1 August 1930, when Palmerston North, on attaining a population of 20,000, became the seventh city in New Zealand.

Further growth

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Palmerston North City Council expanded its boundaries, pulling in parts of the surrounding Kairanga County Council, including the areas of Milson and Kelvin Grove in 1950, Awapuni in 1953, Highbury in 1961, and a number of small areas, including Aokautere, in 1967.

In 1989, under a New Zealand-wide local government restructuring, Palmerston North absorbed much of the Kairanga County Council and a small portion of the Oroua County Council. With a growth in population and eight-fold increase in size, this new Palmerston North became a legal entity on 1 November 1989, with an area including Ashhurst, Linton Military Camp, Fitzherbert and Whakarongo. This is what Palmerston North is today, with a population of approximately 85,000, the sixth largest city in New Zealand.