Levin is situated on the southern part of the Manawatu Plain, known as the Horowhenua district. The sea coast is 6 miles west, and about 5 miles east of the town the land rises to the Tararua Range. Lake Horowhenua is 1 mile west of the town. The North Island Main Trunk railway passes through Levin, which is also a junction for the main highways from Wellington, Wanganui, and Palmerston North. By road Levin is 31 miles south-west of Palmerston North (28 miles by rail), 10 miles south-west of Shannon by road or rail, and 14 miles north-east of Otaki (13 miles by rail from Otaki Railway).
The main rural activities of the district are dairying; sheep raising, including fat-lamb production; market gardening; and berry-fruit growing. Butter and cheese are manufactured at Ohau (3 miles south). The district supplies whole milk for the Wellington City market. Forestry is carried on at Waitarere Beach (9½ miles north-west). A hospital farm for mentally handicapped children is situated 3 miles south of Levin. Levin is a trade and servicing centre with a number of secondary industries. These include the manufacture of butter, various types of clothing, brushware, cardboard containers, leather machine belting, flax-fibre matting, joinery and furniture, motor bodies and caravans, electric fences, bricks and pipes, and concrete products. Boiling-down works process various by-products of abattoirs which serve the wholesale butchering trade. There is an iron foundry in the town, and general and electrical engineering and sheet-metal working are carried on. In recent years Levin has become a popular centre for motor racing
The original inhabitants of the district are believed to have belonged to the Waitaha Tribe. They were succeeded in turn by the Ngati Mamoe and the Muaupoko. In 1820 the district was raided by a war party under Te Rauparaha and Tamati Waka Nene. Te Rauparaha returned later in the 1820s with his Ngati Toa and allied tribes, and most of the coastal areas south of the Whangaehu River were invaded and occupied. The southern part of Horowhenua, containing the future town site, became part of the Ngati Raukawa territory.
In 1832 Hector McDonald, a whaler, landed at Kapiti and negotiated with Te Rauparaha for the establishment of a whaling station. In 1840 McDonald moved to Otaki to trade with the new settlement at Port Nicholson. In the early 1850s he extended his activities to sheep farming and leased from the Ngati Raukawa and Muaupoko a coastal strip, 10–12 miles long and about 2 miles wide, from the Ohau River to the Poroutawhao Swamp. McDonald thus became the pioneer European settler in the district now centred on Levin. In 1873, with the help of Major Kemp, the Muaupoko Tribe assumed ownership of the Horowhenua Block. Kemp was the sole trustee of this land until 1886 when it was partitioned among individual owners. At the same time the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Co. acquired the ownership of land for its line through the block. Railway communication with Wellington and Palmerston North was established in the same year. Kemp stipulated that 4,000 acres be purchased by the Government for a township to be called Taitoko. It was surveyed in December 1888, but was named Levin after William Hort Levin, a director of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Co. The town, suburban, and rural sections were thrown open for sale or selection on 19 March 1889. Most of the early settlers had to clear bush, and for a time sawmilling was an important local industry. With the rapid clearance of the native forest, dairying and other farming activities were established. Levin was constituted a borough on 1 April 1906.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 4,736; 1956 census, 6,458; 1961 census, 7,940. B.N.D. and E.S.D.