1880 - 1895: Economic depression
Wellington gained formal 'city' status in 1881 as the non-Māori population topped 20,000. But, from the early 1880s to 1895, the new city was badly affected by a New Zealand-wide economic depression.
Land and commodity prices slumped, causing widespread unemployment, high debt levels and destitution among the working classes.
The tough times were not helped by continued immigration and rapid population growth; from 1881 to 1885, 1000 new arrivals a year had to be accommodated in the crowded city.