News & Events

Palmerston North 150 anniversary

This year we commemorate 150 years of Palmerston North (1871 to 2021). We’re celebrating our city’s unique heritage and thriving community by showing our residents and visitors where we’ve come from, and where we’re heading.

Rangitāne, the region’s mana whenua, first settled here some 800 years ago. In 1871 our small North Island settlement, with a population of around 200, acquired the word North to its name to distinguish us from our South Island counterpart.

With small city benefits and big city ambition, Palmy has secured its place on the map as a creative and exciting city. We’re proud to be a city which includes, supports, and uses the talents of the whole community in our pursuit to provide a connected and safe community. We’re also a future-focused city which cares about enhancing our natural and built environment.

Our future looks bright. It looks vibrant and progressive. We’re excited for you to explore and enjoy some rich heritage content and dive into our sumptuous selection of upcoming events, which go hand-and-hand with our commemoration.

Some key dates over the past 150 years

  • 1876 Foxton to Palmerston North railway completed
  • 1877 Incorporation of Borough of Palmerston North
  • 1877 George Snelson elected unopposed as first mayor
  • 1878 Conferment of the name Te Marae o Hine upon The Square. Begin landscaping Te Marae o Hine
  • 1883 Volunteer fire brigade formed
  • 1886 Agricultural and Pastoral Association establishes the Showgrounds
  • 1886 Wellington to Manawatū railway completed (incorporated into main trunk line 1908)
  • 1889 Construction of first water supply weir and reservoir on the Turitea Stream
  • 1889 Gasworks opened
  • 1890 Construction of sewerage system
  • 1891 Railway through Manawatū Gorge completed
  • 1893 First hospital opened
  • 1897 Naming of Victoria Esplanade (designated a reserve in 1876)
  • 1902 Major flood of the Manawatū River
  • 1902 First highschool for boys and girls opened
  • 1907 Te Peeti Te Awe Awe statue unveiled
  • 1909 Butterfly pond in Te Marae o Hine opened
  • 1909 Construction of Technical School
  • 1914 First biennial election of mayor and city councillors
  • 1915 New Zealand Medical Corps establishes a military training camp at Awapuni Racecourse
  • 1920 Palmerston North Girls’ High School opened
  • 1924 Electric power station opened
  • 1926 Dedication of war memorial in Te Marae o Hine
  • 1928 Palmerston North Borough Council donates land for Massey Agricultural College
  • 1930 Incorporation of City of Palmerston North
  • 1930 Regent Theatre opened
  • 1935 Second Fitzherbert Bridge opened
  • 1936 Great Easter storm
  • 1936 Construction of Labour government’s state houses, continuing until 1944
  • 1937 City Council purchases Milson Aerodrome (first opened 1931)
  • 1938 Development of Fitzroy Park (renamed Memorial Park in 1954)
  • 1940 Māori Battalion first assembled in Palmerston North for training
  • 1942 Linton Army Camp established
  • 1950 Milson and Kelvin Grove included within the city boundary
  • 1953 “Great flood” of the Manawatū River in January – the largest since 1902
  • 1957 Hopwood clocktower presented to the city
  • 1959 Milson railway deviation opened
  • 1962 Election of Sam Mīhaere, the first Māori councillor, and Julia Wallace, the first woman councillor
  • 1964 Railway through the Square closed
  • 1964 Massey University established
  • 1966 Lido swimming pool opened
  • 1971 Manawatū Museum opened
  • 1974 Centrepoint Theatre begins its first full season at 81 George Street, moving to its Church Street site in 1978
  • 1979 Palmerston North City Council’s current civic administration building completed
  • 1980 Convention Centre opened
  • 1983 Te Āwhina Kōhanga Reo established as the first local Māori language nest
  • 1987 Third Fitzherbert Bridge opened
  • 1988 Major flood (July)
  • 1989 City boundary extended to include Ashhurst, Whakarongo, Aokautere and Linton
  • 1990 Te Kara Kaupapa o Manawatū established, teaching at secondary level
  • 1998 Jill White elected city’s first woman mayor
  • 2004 Major flood (February)
  • 2019 He Ara Kotahi cycle and pedestrian bridge opened