History of Wellington
The harbour that surrounds Wellington city has been known by several names.
Maori oral history records that a legendary explorer named Kupe first arrived
there around 950AD. Kupe and his crew were followed by Tara, who named
the area `Whanganui-a-Tara' or `the great harbour of Tara'.
The British explorer Captain Cook anchored inside the harbour in 1773.
The harbour was charted in 1826 by Captain Herd who named it Port
Nicholson. This name honoured John Nicholson, who was then harbourmaster
of Port Jackson, New South Wales.
The directors of the New Zealand Company decided upon the name Wellington
in 1840, in order to express their gratitiude to the Duke of Wellington who
was a supporter of the company in England.
Wellington was first systematically settled by europeans in 1840, when
New Zealand Company settlers arrived in the ship the Aurora. Wellington
was the site of the first european settlement. Colonel William Wakefield,
a New Zealand Company representative, originally planned for the settlement
to be where Petone is now situated. (The Settlers Museum in Petone contains
exhibits and information about this). After flooding in the area caused by
the Hutt River bursting its banks, the site was shifted to its current
The seat of government in New Zealand was moved from Auckland to Wellington
in 1865, largely on the basis of Wellington's central geographical position.