Story: Wellington places
Page 10 – Upper Hutt
2006 population: 38,415.
A succession of Māori tribes occupied the Upper Hutt basin until 1820, when the most recent, Ngāti Ira, were decimated by a war party of musket-bearing northern tribes that swept through the region. A prominent pā, Whakataka, on the western side of the Hutt River, was one of many sacked in the region. Survivors fled the area.
In 1839 the New Zealand Company scientist Ernst Dieffenbach explored the upper Hutt Valley. But it was not until the 1860s that Europeans began to settle there. More than any other district in the Wellington region, Upper Hutt evokes the pioneers and their struggles. Dense forests have been cleared, rivers bridged and its isolation eased by roads and the railway.
The most significant achievement was the Rimutaka Incline Railway, built in the 1870s to link Wellington with the Wairarapa. It took trains over the Rimutaka Range, using an innovative third notched rail to slow their descent on the steep Wairarapa side.
Upper Hutt remained a farming community until after the Second World War when extensive housing spread over arable land, from Pinehaven and Silverstream in the south-east to Totara Park and Te Marua in the north-west. In 1965 it became a city. Many residents commute to work in Wellington city.
The settlement at the southern end of the Upper Hutt basin is Trentham, well known for its army camp, racecourse and memorial park.
In 1841 John Barton purchased a large area beside the Hutt River. He named it Trentham after his childhood home in England. Much of his land was cleared, but significant tracts of forest survived and in 1950 were purchased as Upper Hutt’s Second World War memorial. These remnants are reminders of the tawa–podocarp forest that once covered the Hutt Valley.
One kilometre south, Trentham Army Camp occupies a large area. During the First World War the army built a large training camp there. It was used again during the Second World War and has since become a permanent facility.
Nearby is Trentham Racecourse. Its buildings, erected by the Wellington Racing Club in 1906, were used during the Second World War as a military hospital and also to house American troops. Since the war, Trentham has been extended, and is now one of the country’s finest racecourses.
This farming settlement is on the banks of the Mangaroa River, 4 kilometres south-east of Upper Hutt.