Manawatu-Wanganui is located in the lower half of New Zealand’s North Island, bordered to the west by Taranaki, the south by Wairarapa, and the north and west by Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay. Manawatu-Wanganui’s two main cities are Palmerston North and Whanganui, and these two centres account for a little over half of the region’s population. Other significant towns include Levin, Feilding and Dannevirke.
Manawatu-Wanganui has a strong rural culture, with over a third of its people residing in small towns or rural areas. As such, agriculture is the cornerstone of the Manawatu-Wanganui economy. A large number of the nation’s sheep are farmed there, and farming in 1996 occupied 72.5% of the region’s total land. There are areas of forestry and horticulture as well, and Manawatu-Wanganui is a significant producer of vegetables, potatoes in particular.
Manawatu-Wanganui’s landscape is varied, from mountain ranges to high rugged country on the Volcanic Plateau and the flat, fertile Manawatu Plains. The region’s rugged interior is a major training area for the New Zealand Defence Force, which has three bases in Manawatu-Wanganui – Ohakea air base and the Linton and Waiouru army camps.
Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui’s largest city, is located inland on the Manawatu Plains, near the Manawatu River. The city has a population of close to 85,000, and as a university city that population is younger than the national median. Palmerston North’s important sectors are tertiary education, research, and central government (via its involvement with the Defence Force.) It’s also a city known for business innovation, with Glaxo, part of the GSK GlaxoSmithKline multinational, founded in the city in 1904. Glaxo is just one of the firms founded in Palmerston North to have found national or international success; in addition, at least a dozen large companies currently base their national head offices in the city.
Palmerston North offers a range of amenities and attractions that offer residents and visitors alike an enjoyable experience, including the New Zealand Rugby Museum and the seven-hectare park in the centre of the city known as The Square. For tourists, Palmerston North also serves as the gateway to the region’s other major attractions, including Whakapapa Ski Resort, Tongariro National Park and the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges. Day treks, cycling tours and other adventure tourism opportunities abound in Manawatu-Wanganui; interestingly, though, the region’s #1-ranked attraction according to TripAdvisor.co.nz is Kowhai Park, a family-oriented park and playground in Wanganui.