Thorndon, New Zealand

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Suburb of Wellington City Council
Thorndon in front of Kelburn and Te Ahumairangi Hill. Karori in the distance
Thorndon in front of Kelburn and
Te Ahumairangi Hill. Karori in the distance
CountryNew Zealand
CityWellington City Council
Electoral wardPukehīnau/Lambton Ward
 • Land148 ha (366 acres)
 (June 2020)[2]
 • Total4,130
Railway station(s)
Ferry terminal(s)Wellington Interislander Terminal, Wellington Bluebridge Terminal
Wilton Wadestown
Kelburn, Pipitea


Thorndon is a historic inner suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. Because the suburb is relatively level compared to the hilly terrain elsewhere in Wellington it contained Wellington's elite residential area until its best was destroyed in the 1960s by a new motorway and the erection of tall office buildings on the sites of its Molesworth Street retail and service businesses.

Before Thorndon was Thorndon it was Haukawakawa and in 1824 Pipitea Pā was settled at its southern end. More recently Pipitea Marae and the land under the Government Centre have been separated from Thorndon and the name Pipitea returned to them in 2003. The reclamations have been included in the new suburb Pipitea.

Thorndon combines the home of government and upmarket residential accommodation. It is located at the northern end of the Central Business District.


Thorndon Quay — Mulgrave Street.
Pipitea Pā in the right foreground, St Paul's pro-cathedral behind the pā.
Thistle Inn is slightly left of the centre of this 1866 picture

Pipitea has been said to have been named for the pipi beds along Thorndon Quay.[3]

Ngāti Mutunga from Taranaki established the fortified village, Pipitea Pā, in 1824 on the Haukawakawa flats. Then the Ngāti Mutunga left on the sailing ship Rodney in 1835 settling in the Chatham Islands and Te Āti Awa occupied the pā. The pā declined after European settlement though some people remained there into the 20th century. There were other villages near 191 Thorndon Quay and near the junction of Hobson Street with Fitzherbert Terrace. The Pā's gardens reached parliament grounds and the Botanic Garden.[3]

Part of the pā site opened in 1980 as an urban marae. The site transferred to Te Āti Awa/Taranaki whānui as part of the local Treaty Settlement in 2009.[3]

Pipitea Marae and its meeting house, Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui, is a meeting place for Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika and Te Āti Awa.[4][5]

Parliament's Beehive
and the old wooden administration building on reclaimed land

Thorndon, like Te Aro, is one of the few comparatively flat areas on the harbour. Haukawakawa / Thorndon flats became a significant part of Port Nicholson's first organised European settlement in 1840. S C Brees described it in 1848 as "the court end of town".[note 1] European settlers built their houses alongside the Maori settlement of Pipitea and the New Zealand Company named all the flats Thorndon after the estate of W H F Petre one of their directors.[6]


Thorndon statistical area covers 1.48 km2 (0.57 sq mi).[1] It had an estimated population of 4,130 as of June 2020,[2] with a population density of 2,791 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [7]

Thorndon had a population of 4,020 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 333 people (9.0%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 543 people (15.6%) since the 2006 census. There were 1,860 households. There were 1,923 males and 2,097 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.92 males per female. The median age was 32.9 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 312 people (7.8%) aged under 15 years, 1,443 (35.9%) aged 15 to 29, 1,833 (45.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 432 (10.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 79.0% European/Pākehā, 6.9% Māori, 2.5% Pacific peoples, 17.2% Asian, and 3.7% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 36.6%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 55.1% had no religion, 29.9% were Christian, 3.1% were Hindu, 1.3% were Muslim, 1.7% were Buddhist and 4.0% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 2,193 (59.1%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 114 (3.1%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $52,900, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 2,469 (66.6%) people were employed full-time, 435 (11.7%) were part-time, and 129 (3.5%) were unemployed.[7]

National institutions[edit]

The buildings of the New Zealand Parliament are located in Thorndon.

Thorndon is also the location of national institutions including the Appeal and High Courts —the Supreme Court is on Lambton Quay facing Parliament— the National Library and Archives New Zealand.

The national museum moved from behind Parliament in Museum Street to a much larger purpose-built building in Buckle Street just before the second world war then in 1998 to the harbour edge and is now Te Papa Tongarewa.

Thorndon is home to two Cathedrals: the Anglican St Paul's Cathedral built between 1937 and 1998 to replace the pro-cathedral now known as Old St Paul's, which in turn had replaced a church on the site of the Beehive in 1844; and the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral in Hill Street, opened in 1901 to replace the destroyed St Mary's Cathedral in Eccleston Hill dating from 1851.

Geographic boundaries[edit]

Thorndon 1880s from a Kaiwarra tunnel

Thorndon occupies the northern end of the narrow coastal plain that makes up the heart of Wellington. It is flanked to the north by the green hills of Wadestown, by Northland and Kelburn to the west and south, and on its south Pipitea with the Government Centre, the marae and to its east the port facilities of Wellington Harbour. Thorndon now incorporates Te Ahumairangi Hill.

The boundaries of Thorndon form a very rough triangle. Starting from the triangle's lower south-west corner, at the intersection of Glenmore Street and Collins Terrace, the boundary goes up through the north side of Te Ahumairangi Hill right across to Wadestown's Weld Street and down to the north end of Frandi Street. Then the boundary follows the west side of Thorndon Quay down until Davis Street where it zig-zags through to Hill Street then over to Bowen Street, Tinakori Road and Glenmore Street up to its junction with Collins Terrace.


Schools located in Thorndon include Wellington Girls' College, St Mary's College, Queen Margaret College and primary schools Thorndon School and Sacred Heart Cathedral School.[8]

The Central Regional Health School, a hospital school, is located in Thorndon.[9][10] It has a roll of 20 as of March 2021.[11]


Farmers' market in the Cathedral car park
Cruise ships Noordam and The World by the Stadium

Thorndon Farmers Market is set up each Saturday in Hill Street.

The Thorndon Fair is held annually, usually on the first Sunday of December. The fair has many stalls selling crafts and second-hand goods and is held for the benefit of Thorndon School. It has taken place for many years and is one of the main community events held in Thorndon. Parts of Tinakori Road and Hill Street are closed during the fair.

Thorndon's Westpac Stadium is one of New Zealand's top sports venues. The Thorndon Tennis (and Squash) Club, established in the 19th century, is one of the oldest in the world.

Notable residents[edit]

Old Government House Thorndon
circa 1877 on the site of the Beehive.
Old Parliament Buildings at the left
on the site of the Parliamentary Library

Ex officio[edit]

Private citizens[edit]

Residence of the Ambassador of France

Hobson Street

Robert Pharazyn's house
T C Williams's tower in the background

Tinakori Road

W H Levin's house in Tinakori Road
Queen Margaret College 2012
T C Williams's house is said to have had more than 30 rooms

Fitzherbert Terrace

Hawkestone Street and Portland Crescent

Hill Street

Sydney Street West. Rita Angus's cottage with red roof and yellow walls

Sydney Street West

Bowen Street

Murphy Street

Thorndon Quay

Glenmore Street

Many embassies, high commissions and consulates are located in Thorndon including: the US, Chinese, Cuban, German, Italian, Philippine, Thai and Turkish Embassies; the Australian, British, Canadian, Cook Islands, Fijian, Indian, and Niue High Commissions; and the Norwegian and Swedish Consulates-General.

Thorndon Esplanade[edit]

Thorndon Esplanade ca. 1905

"Wellington's Show Walk". Thorndon Esplanade with its baths and shrubs lies beneath Aotea Quay. Its band rotunda was sent to Central Park in 1921. Built at the end of the 1880s on the reclamation of the Manawatu Railway Company and intended to be a place of fashionable display it did not survive the first World War. It had become dirty and disreputable suffering from the increased activity in the smoky railway yards alongside.[13] Its coprosmas and "gallant pohutukawas" never grew larger seeming to lack any care from the City Council but the wind and the poor soil and the grimy railway yard discouraged plants and visitors. "Lovers seemed to monopolise the gardens in the evenings".[14]

The salt water baths were closed in 1920 and the superstructure moved to Evans Bay for dressing sheds.[15] New baths opened in Murphy Street in November 1924 with certain hours set aside for mixed bathing.[16][17]


  1. ^ "being the neighbourhood of Government House, the church, the law courts, police court . . . etc" Samuel Charles Brees. Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand, London, J. Williams, 1848
  2. ^ when Government House was taken over by Parliament following the destruction of Parliament Buildings by fire, (that building was eventually demolished to erect the Beehive) and a new residence built by the Basin Reserve
  3. ^ both her birthplace and her family's residence after 1898 at #133 Tinakori Road — destroyed for the motorway.


  1. ^ a b "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris. ’’Tangata Whenua’’, page 218. Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, ISBN 9781927131411
  4. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  5. ^ "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  6. ^ E J Wakefield, Adventure in New Zealand, Vol.I, p. 100
  7. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Thorndon (250900). 2018 Census place summary: Thorndon
  8. ^ "Find schools in Wellington City". Ministry of Education.
  9. ^ "Central Regional Health School Official School Website".
  10. ^ "Central Regional Health School Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  11. ^ "Central Regional Health School Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  12. ^ Paul Goldsmith and Michael Bassett, The Myers, David Ling Publishing Ltd, Auckland, 2007.
  13. ^ The Evening Post, 10 November 1930, Page 10
  14. ^ The Evening Post, 30 January 1915, Page 3
  15. ^ The Evening Post 13 September 1920, page 7
  16. ^ The Evening Post 25 November 1924, page 6
  17. ^ The Evening Post 1 December 1924

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°16′30″S 174°46′40″E / 41.2750°S 174.7779°E / -41.2750; 174.7779