Napier, New Zealand

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Ahuriri (Māori)
View of Napier on Hawke Bay
View of Napier on Hawke Bay
Napier is located in New Zealand
Location of Napier
Coordinates: 39°29′S 176°55′E / 39.483°S 176.917°E / -39.483; 176.917Coordinates: 39°29′S 176°55′E / 39.483°S 176.917°E / -39.483; 176.917
Country New Zealand
RegionHawke's Bay
Territorial authorityNapier City
Settled by Europeans1851
 • MayorBill Dalton
 • Territorial106 km2 (41 sq mi)
 • Urban140.28 km2 (54.16 sq mi)
Population (June 2013 estimate)[1]
 • Territorial57,800
 • Density550/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
 • Urban58,800
 • Urban density420/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Time zoneNew Zealand Standard Time (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST)New Zealand Daylight Time (UTC+13)
Area code(s)06
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Ahuriri (Māori)
View of Napier on Hawke Bay
View of Napier on Hawke Bay
Napier is located in New Zealand
Location of Napier
Coordinates: 39°29′S 176°55′E / 39.483°S 176.917°E / -39.483; 176.917Coordinates: 39°29′S 176°55′E / 39.483°S 176.917°E / -39.483; 176.917
Country New Zealand
RegionHawke's Bay
Territorial authorityNapier City
Settled by Europeans1851
 • MayorBill Dalton
 • Territorial106 km2 (41 sq mi)
 • Urban140.28 km2 (54.16 sq mi)
Population (June 2013 estimate)[1]
 • Territorial57,800
 • Density550/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
 • Urban58,800
 • Urban density420/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Time zoneNew Zealand Standard Time (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST)New Zealand Daylight Time (UTC+13)
Area code(s)06

Napier (/ˈnpiər/ NAY-pi-ər; Māori: Ahuriri) is a New Zealand city with a seaport, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. The population of Napier is about 58,800 as of the June 2013 estimate.[1] About 18 kilometres south of Napier is the inland city of Hastings. These two neighbouring cities are often called "The Twin Cities" or "The Bay Cities" of New Zealand. The total population of the Napier-Hastings urban area is 125,300 people, which makes it the fifth-largest urban area in New Zealand, closely followed by Tauranga (123,500), and Dunedin (119,100), and trailing the Hamilton urban area (212,000).

Napier is about 320 kilometres northeast of the capital city of Wellington. Napier has a similar population to its neighbouring city of Hastings (66,500) but is seen as the main centre due to it being closer in distance to both the seaport and the main airport that service Hawke's Bay. The City of Napier has a land area of 106 square kilometres and a population density of 540.0 per square kilometre.

Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand. Napier has also become an important grape and wine production area, with the grapes grown around Hastings and Napier being sent through the Port of Napier for export. Large amounts of sheep's wool, frozen meat, wood pulp, and timber also pass through Napier annually for export. Smaller amounts of these materials are shipped via road and railway to the large metropolitan areas of New Zealand itself, such as Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton.

Napier is a popular tourist city, with a unique concentration of 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after much of the city was razed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. It also has one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country, a statue on Marine Parade called Pania of the Reef. Thousands of people flock to Napier every February for the Art Deco Weekend event, a celebration of its Art Deco heritage and history. Other notable tourist events attracting many outsiders include the region's annual GEON Art Deco Weekend, and Mission Estate Concert at Mission Estate and Winery in the suburb of Greenmeadows.


Māori history[edit]

Napier has well-documented Māori history. When the Ngāti Kahungunu party of Taraia reached the district many centuries ago, the Whatumamoa, Rangitane and the Ngāti Awa and elements of the Ngāti Tara iwi existed in the nearby areas of Petane, Te Whanganui-a-Orotu and Waiohiki. Later, the Ngāti Kahungunu became the dominant force from Poverty Bay to Wellington. They were one of the first Māori tribes to come in contact with European settlers.

Napier's Tom Parker Fountain at dusk

Chief Te Ahuriri cut a channel into the lagoon space at Ahuriri because the Westshore entrance had become blocked, threatening cultivations surrounding the lagoon and the fishing villages on the islands in the lagoon. The rivers were continually feeding freshwater into the area.

European settlers' history[edit]

The first European to see the future site of Napier was Captain James Cook, who sailed down the east coast in October 1769. He commented: "On each side of this bluff head is a low, narrow sand or stone beach, between these beaches and the mainland is a pretty large lake of salt water I suppose."[2] He said the harbour entrance was at the Westshore end of the shingle beach. The site was subsequently visited and later settled by European traders, whalers and missionaries. By the 1850s, farmers and hotel-keepers arrived.

Sound Shell (1931) in Napier at night.

The Crown purchased the Ahuriri block (including the site of Napier) in 1851. In 1854 Alfred Domett, a future Prime Minister of New Zealand, was appointed as the Commissioner of Crown Lands and the resident magistrate at the village of Ahuriri. It was decided to place a planned town here, its streets and avenues were laid out, and the new town named for Sir Charles Napier, a military leader during the "Battle of Meeanee" fought in the province of Sindh, India. Mr. Domett named many streets in Napier to commemorate the colonial era of the British Indian Empire.[2]

Napier was designated as a borough in 1874, but the development of the surrounding marshlands and reclamation proceeded slowly. Between 1858 and 1876 Napier was the administrative centre for the Hawke's Bay Province, but in 1876 the "Abolition of Provinces Act", an act of the Parliament of New Zealand, dissolved all provincial governments in New Zealand.[2]

T & G Dome at dusk
Halsbury Chambers (architect Louis Hay, 1932), Napier

Development was generally confined to the hill and to the port area of Ahuriri. In the early years, Napier covered almost exclusively an oblong group of hills (the Scinde Island) which was nearly entirely surrounded by the ocean, but from which ran out two single spits, one to the north and one to the south. There was a swamp between the now Hastings Street and Wellesley Road and the sea extended to "Clive Square".

1931 earthquake[edit]

On 3 February 1931, most of Napier was levelled by an earthquake. The collapses of buildings and the ensuing fires killed 256 people. The centre of the town was destroyed by the earthquake, and later rebuilt in the Art Deco style popular at that time. Some 4000 hectares of today's Napier were undersea before the earthquake raised it above sea level.[2] The earthquake uplifted an area of 1500 km2 with a maximum of 2.7 m of uplift. In Hastings about 1 m of ground subsidence occurred.

Although a few Art Deco buildings were replaced with contemporary structures during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, most of the centre remained intact for long enough to become recognised as architecturally important, and beginning in the 1990s it had been protected and restored. Napier and the area of South Beach, Miami, Florida, are considered to be the two best-preserved Art Deco towns (with the town of Miami Beach, Florida, being mostly decorated in the somewhat later Streamline Moderne style of Art Deco.)

Beginning in 2007, Napier was nominated as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO. This is the first cultural site in New Zealand to be so nominated.[3]

Modern history[edit]

In January 1945, the German Kriegsmarine U-boat (submarine) U-862 entered and departed from the port of Napier undetected. This event became the basis of a widely circulated postwar tall tale that the captain of this U-boat, Heinrich Timm, had led crewmen ashore near Napier to milk cows in order to supplement their meagre rations.

Napier was the scene of an armed attack by cannabis dealer Jan Molenaar on three police officers searching his home in May 2009. He killed one officer, and wounded two others and a civilian. He continued to fire shots from his house, which police besieged until he committed suicide 40 hours later.[4]

Geography and climate[edit]

NASA satellite photo of Napier and southern Hawke Bay

The city is on Napier Hill and the surrounding Heretaunga Plains at the southeastern edge of Hawke Bay, a large semi-circular bay that dominates the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. The coastline of the city was substantially altered by a large earthquake in 1931. The topography puts Napier in danger from a tsunami, as the centre of the commercial city is near sea level – should the sea ever crest Marine Parade the sea would run through to Ahuriri.[citation needed]

Some of Napier's suburbs are Ahuriri, Bay View, Greenmeadows, Meeanee, Napier Hill, Onekawa, Pirimai, Taradale and Westshore.

Under the Köppen climate classification, Napier has an oceanic climate (Cfb). The climate is warm and relatively dry resulting from its location on the east coast of the North Island. Most of New Zealand's weather patterns cross the country from the west, and the city lies in the rain shadow of the North Island Volcanic Plateau and surrounding ranges such as the Kaweka Range.

Climate data for Napier (1981−2010)
Average high °C (°F)24.5
Daily mean °C (°F)19.5
Average low °C (°F)14.6
Precipitation mm (inches)46.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
 % humidity69.973.974.677.178.779.979.676.069.267.367.867.073.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours249.3202.6201.7172.4155.6130.7134.7166.8181.2213.9216.2233.72,258.7
Source: NIWA Climate Data[5]


At the 2006 census, Napier had a population of 55,359, an increase of 1698 people, or 3.2 percent, since the 2001 census. There were 21,756 occupied dwellings, 1326 unoccupied dwellings, and 150 dwellings under construction.[6]

Of the population of Napier, 26,520 (47.9 percent) were male, and 28,839 (52.1 percent) were female. The city had a median age of 38.6 years, 2.7 years above the national median age of 35.9 years. People aged 65 years and over made up 15.6 percent of the population, compared to 12.3 percent nationally, and people under 15 years made up 21.2 percent of the population, compared to 21.5 percent nationally.[6]

Napier's ethnicity was made up of (national figure in brackets): 72.4 percent European (67.6 percent), 18.2 percent Maori (14.7 percent), 2.6 percent Asian (9.2 percent), 2.6 percent Pacific Islanders (6.9 percent), 0.4 percent Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (0.9 percent), 14.3 percent 'New Zealanders' (11.1 percent), and 0.03 percent Other (0.04 percent).[6]

Napier had an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent of people 15 years and over, compared to 5.1 percent nationally. The average annual income of all people 15 years and over in Napier was $22,700, compared to $24,400 nationally. Of those, 45.2 percent earned under $20,000 annually, compared to 43.2 percent nationally, while 14.5 percent earned over $50,000 annually, compared to 18.0 percent nationally.[6]

Tourism and architecture[edit]

Napier's major tourist attraction is its architecture, which draws Art Deco and architecture enthusiasts from around the world. The rebuilding period after the 1931 earthquake coincided with the short-lived and rapidly changing Art Deco era and the Great Depression, when little "mainstreet" development was being undertaken elsewhere. As a result Napier's architecture is strikingly different from any other city; the other notable Art Deco city, Miami Beach, has Streamline Moderne Art Deco. The whole centre of Napier was rebuilt simultaneously.

National Tobacco Company Building
The T & G Building (Atkin & Mitchell, Wellington, 1936)

Other tourist attractions in Napier include MTG Hawke's Bay (the museum, art gallery and theatre) which features information on both the 1931 earthquake and Napier's redesign as an Art Deco city, the National Aquarium, the Soundshell and the Pania of the Reef statue. The Pania statue on Marine Parade is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen. In October 2005 the statue was stolen, but it was recovered a week later, largely unharmed.[7] Marineland was a tourist attraction from 1965 until it closed in 2009.[8] Tourists flock to Napier in February for Art Deco weekend and the Mission Estate Winery Concert in the Napier suburb of Greenmeadows which has featured Chris De Burgh, Olivia Newton-John, Eric Clapton, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Sting performing with the NZ Symphony Orchestra, Shirley Bassey, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, Tom Jones, and in 2013 Barry Gibb with Carol King.

Attractions nearby include the Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony and many vineyards bordering Taradale, Hastings City, and north of Napier around Bay View and the Esk Valley.

Many people use Napier as a gateway to Hawke's Bay, flying in to Hawke's Bay Airport at Westshore from Wellington City, Auckland and Christchurch. Tourists also enter Napier by State Highway 2 along the coast and State Highway 5 from Taupo. The rail line in and out of Hawke's Bay has not had a passenger service since 2001.


The largest industry in Napier and its environs is processing/manufacturing, the major products being food, textiles, wood, metal products and machinery/equipment.[9] Other significant industries for the region include property/business services, rural production/rural services and retail.[10]

Napier was once home to one of New Zealand's largest smoking tobacco plants. On 9 September 2005 British American Tobacco announced it would close the Rothmans factory, due to diminished demand. Production has moved to Australia. The Art Deco-style factory had been producing up to 2.2 billion cigarettes a year for the New Zealand and Pacific Island markets. In March 1999, 19 people lost their jobs there because "fewer people are smoking".[11]

View of Napier and Taradale from Sugar Loaf (behind Mission Winery)

Napier suffered a double blow from service amalgamation towards the end of the century. The local newspaper, the (Napier) Daily Telegraph, was combined with the (Hastings) Herald-Tribune to form a new regional newspaper Hawke's Bay Today. The Napier offices were closed down in favour of locating the offices in Hastings. The next rationalisation saw the closure of Napier Hospital, with services being amalgamated with Hastings Hospital, creating Hawke's Bay Hospital at the Hastings site.

Local government reform was mooted in the late 1990s and a referendum was held in 1999 proposing an amalgamation of the Hastings District Council with the Napier City Council. Although supported by approximately two thirds of Hastings voters, Napier voters rejected the proposal by a similar number and the proposal was defeated.



The airport is called Hawke's Bay Airport its in the Napier suburb of Westshore, and is sometimes referred to as Napier Airport. It is sited on the former Ahuriri Lagoon, an area which was raised above sea level by the massive 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Air New Zealand connect the city to Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Sunair flies to Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga and Gisborne.

Culture and entertainment[edit]

Veronica Sunbay overlooking the sea on Marine Parade
Port of Napier at night
Spirit of Napier, or Gilray Fountain, along Marine Parade
Cargo ship at the port of Napier, 1973

Napier prides itself as the 'Art Deco Capital'. Its Mediterranean climate supports a vibrant cafe culture, and excellent cuisine. Wine is also important in the whole Hawke's Bay region which is renowned for producing some of the world's finest wines with over 70 wineries located in the area. The region is also New Zealand's largest apple, pear and stone fruit producer. The Port of Napier and rail network provides quick export of these goods. Napier is also looking to grow its technology workers having announced its #GigatownNapier bid to become the first city in New Zealand to be connected to the world at Gigabit Internet speeds.

Entertainment in Napier is vibrant and varied. Tourists flock to the city for its attractions and activities, and a large attraction is the Art Deco building designs. Marine Parade is one of Napier's most famous highlights – a tree-lined ocean boulevard with fountains, gardens, mini golf, statues and spas.[12] The National Aquarium of New Zealand is also located on Marine Parade. For a city of its size, Napier also has a rather large number of hotels and accommodation providers compared to other New Zealand cities of similar size. Napier has a lively entertainment scene that includes many outdoor and indoor activities such as city tours, swimming, golf, sports, restaurants, theatres, etc. Shopping is also popular – there are high street and boutique stores to browse in, as well as antique shops, art galleries, and studios of potters, wood turners and craftsman.[12]

There is also a thriving nightlife present in Napier. This is especially present in the entertainment district of Ahuriri, located five minutes drive from the city centre, along West Quay and Nelson Quay. Tourists and locals alike also enjoy walking or driving along Marine Parade after sunset. Local bands can be found playing in bars and restaurants.

Sailing, fishing and other water activities in the Bay are also popular. The marina and waterfront in Ahuriri, Napier, is a popular sea-tourism attraction. Fishing industries are thriving in Napier. On hot "Hawke's Bay days" swimming and family activities are popular in Pandora Pond – a salt water inlet by the inner harbour in Ahuriri – or on the beaches and playgrounds of Westshore and Ahuriri.

For flying enthusiasts, the annual model airplane show ‘Warbirds over Awatoto’ takes place on the outskirts of Napier. The 2013 gathering attracted 48 pilots and 120 planes.[13]

Schools and higher education[edit]

Napier has five state secondary schools: Napier Boys' High School, Napier Girls' High School, William Colenso College, Tamatea High School and Taradale High School. Other secondary schools include Sacred Heart College and St Joseph's Māori Girls' College, both state integrated Catholic girls' schools, and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Hou, a Māori language immersion school.

The Eastern Institute of Technology in Taradale is the main tertiary education provider for Napier.

Notable people[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Napier City Council recognises three sister city relationships.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2013 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2013.  Also "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d History Napier and Taradale – Napier City – Hawke's Bay – New Zealand[dead link]
  3. ^ Napier Art Deco historic precinct. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved on 7 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Napier shooting: Siege over as Molenaar's body located". The New Zealand Herald. 9 May 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  5. ^ "Climate Data and Activities". NIWA. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Quickstats about Napier City
  7. ^ "Pania statue found". The New Zealand Herald. 4 November 2005. 
  8. ^ "End of an era as Napier's Marineland closes". The New Zealand Herald. Newstalk ZB. 27 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Napier City Economic and Tourism Update 16 March 2011 Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  10. ^ Napier City Economic Trends and Outlook March 2010 Update Report Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  11. ^ July 1999 decisions. Retrieved on 7 May 2012.
  12. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  13. ^ "Warbirds over Awatoto". Model Flying Hawkes Bay. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  14. ^ "Russell, Andrew Hamilton"; The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 21 June 2012
  15. ^ "Sister City Linkages - Napier City Council". Retrieved 25 May 2012. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Napier at Wikimedia Commons