History of the town and green belts

The first plan for Wellington – drawn in 1840 – shows land for public enjoyment that was not to be built on.

Town Belt

Wellington's Town Belt is a 425-hectare reserve on the first line of hills encircling the city. It has been enjoyed as a recreation space by residents and visitors since 1839.

The Town Belt includes many parks and walkways. It is an important part of Wellington's landscape, enclosing the inner city and central suburbs in a green sweep that is part of Wellington's geographic identity.

Outer Green Belt

The Outer Green Belt is the ridgeline hills to the west of the city, from the south coast to Colonial Knob.

Background to the Town Belt

In England in 1840 the idea of a Town Belt was a novelty. Parklands in Britain at that time were privately owned by the wealthy. As overcrowding and health problems rose in many industrial English cities, people called for more open spaces. They called these new spaces the 'lungs' of a city. The New Zealand Company applied this idea when establishing the settlement that is now Wellington City.

The Town Belt – of 1,061 acres, one rood and two perches – was granted to the city of Wellington in 1873 as a public recreation ground for Wellington residents. Wellington City Council has held and managed the land since.

Mixed motives

Public health was not the only reason driving the New Zealand Company's Town Belt plan. The Company wanted to keep land prices high in the 'town acres', to ensure good returns for investors.

Dividing the town with planted public strips also boosted the social hierarchy. People who couldn't afford expensive land would – the company intended – form a working class labour force.

Land claims

The Waitangi Tribunal Report for the Port Nicholson Block claimants Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o te Ika identified that the Town Belt was taken illegally from Māori and vested in reserves for the city of Wellington. The land was taken without consent, consultation or payment in 1841 and deemed crown land.

In passing to Wellington City Council, the land has become unavailable to the claimants as settlement for their historical claims.


The history of the Town Belt from its beginnings in 1839 through to the present day is reflected in this timeline:

Timeline - History of the Town Belt (248KB PDF)