Manawatu Gorge

Last updated
Manawatu Gorge viewed from a lookout on the Manawatu Gorge Track Manawatu Gorge.jpg
Manawatu Gorge viewed from a lookout on the Manawatu Gorge Track

The Manawatu Gorge (in Māori Te Apiti, meaning "The Narrow Passage") runs for 6-9 km between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges in the south part of the North Island of New Zealand, linking the Manawatu and Hawke's Bay regions. It lies to the northeast of Palmerston North. Its western end is near the small town of Ashhurst and its eastern end is close to the town of Woodville.



The Manawatu Gorge is significant because, unlike most gorges, the Manawatu River is a water gap, that is it runs directly through the surrounding ranges from one side to the other. This was caused by the ranges moving upwards at the same time as the gorge was eroded by the river, instead of the more usual erosion of an already existing range.

The Manawatu River is the only river in New Zealand that starts its journey on one side of the main divide and finishes it on the other side. [1]


The road through the Manawatu Gorge, State Highway 3, is on the south side of the river, and was completed in 1872. It was the primary link between the two sides of the lower North Island, before being abandoned in 2017 due to the number of slips. Other than Saddle Road and the Pahiatua Track, both narrow winding local roads a few kilometers north and south of the Manawatu Gorge, [2] the gorge was the only east-west road connection between the Akatarawa Valley, 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the south, and SH5 between Taupo and Napier 150 kilometres (93 mi) north of the Manawatu Gorge. [3]

The road through the Manawatu Gorge had a history of sometimes being closed by slips, especially following inclement weather. [4]

A single track rail connection was established on the northern side of the gorge; it was completed in 1891 and is now part of the Palmerston North–Gisborne Line. The rail connection is mainly used by goods trains; there are currently no scheduled passenger rail services through the gorge. Occasional railway excursions, typically with steam trains, also make use of the scenic Manawatu Gorge Railway line with its two tunnels and several small bridges. [5]

The Old Gorge Cemetery lies on the north side of the Manawatu Gorge. Public access is available, but the cemetery was closed many years ago to further burials. The road is located just a few kilometres out of Woodville on the north side of the gorge.

In 2011 the gorge was closed after several massive landslips. It did not reopen until August 2012, and parts of the highway were still limited to one lane. [6] In October 2012 it was temporarily closed so contractors could destroy large rocks that posed a threat to traffic. [7] Restoration was completed in November 2012. [8]

SH3 was blocked again for one month by further slips after severe weather on 9 April 2015. [9]

The sign says the road is closed to all, including pedestrians, under the Government Roading Powers Act 1989. The Manawatu Gorge Track goes under the bridge Manawatu Gorge road closure.jpg
The sign says the road is closed to all, including pedestrians, under the Government Roading Powers Act 1989. The Manawatu Gorge Track goes under the bridge

In April 2017, the Manawatu Gorge was closed again due to a large slip. Contractors were pulled out of clearing the slip in July 2017 due to ongoing geological movement in the hill, closing the road indefinitely. [10]

A further slip in July 2017 at the Ashhurst end of the Manawatu Gorge left an additional 10,000 cubic metres of rock on the road. [11] The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) decided to close the Gorge route permanently. The authority investigated long-term options to bypass or replace the gorge route, with their final list having four options. [12] [13] [14]

The chosen new route option, delayed from December 2017 and announced in March 2018, will be above the Gorge, but below the Saddle Road, and will bypass Ashurst. [15]

Manawatu Gorge Track

Whatonga sculpture along Manawatu Gorge Track Whatonga sculpture in evening sunlight.jpg
Whatonga sculpture along Manawatu Gorge Track

A 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) tramping track, the Manawatu Gorge Track, runs parallel to the gorge on the south side through native bush. [16]

The walking track passes several lookout points, one of which is above the site of the 2015 landslide, aptly called the "Big Slip Lookout". [17] The majority of the track leads through native bush, with the lookouts offering views overlooking the gorge and towards the Te Apiti Wind Farm continuing on the hills north of the gorge.

Also along the track, in the midst of native bush, stands the 6 metres (20 ft) tall metal sculpture of Whatonga, one of three recognised Māori chiefs on board the Kurahaupo Waka, which journeyed across the ocean to New Zealand. [18] The statue was funded by the Manawatu Gorge Biodiversity stakeholder group and is made of steel. It was lowered to its location in the bush by helicopter, and blessed at a dawn ceremony on 11 April 2014. The artwork on the sculpture features hammerhead shark patterns and depicts elements of the story of Whatonga's sea voyage, as well as emblems of all of the Manawatu Gorge biodiversity project stakeholders. [19]

Up to date information on all walking and biking tracks is available on the Te Apiti website.

See also

Related Research Articles

Pahiatua Place in Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand

Pahiatua is a rural service town in the south-eastern North Island of New Zealand with a population of 2,550. It is between Masterton and Woodville on State Highway 2 and the Wairarapa Line railway, 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Masterton and 30 kilometres (19 mi) east of Palmerston North. It is usually regarded as being in the Northern Wairarapa. However, for local government purposes it is in the Tararua District part of the Manawatū-Whanganui region; which encompasses Eketahuna, Pahiatua, Woodvillle and Dannevirke.

Palmerston North City in North Island, New Zealand

Palmerston North is a city in the North Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Manawatū-Whanganui region. Located in the eastern Manawatu Plains, the city is near the north bank of the Manawatu River, 35 km (22 mi) from the river's mouth, and 12 km (7 mi) from the end of the Manawatu Gorge, about 140 km (87 mi) north of the capital, Wellington. Palmerston North is the country's eighth-largest urban area, with an urban population of 80,300.

Manawatū-Whanganui Region of New Zealand

Manawatū-Whanganui is a region in the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand, whose main population centres are the cities of Palmerston North and Whanganui. It is administered by the Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Council, which operates under the name Horizons Regional Council.

Hakarimata Range mountain range in New Zealand

Hakarimata Range is a range of hills on the western edge of Ngāruawāhia township, in the Waikato region of New Zealand, overlooking the confluence of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers. The Hakarimata Range is separated from the Taupiri Range by the Taupiri Gorge, through which the Waikato River flows.

Manawatu District Territorial authority in Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand

The Manawatu District is a local government district in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region in the North Island of New Zealand.

Woodville, New Zealand Place in Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand

Woodville, previously known as The Junction is a small town in the southern North Island of New Zealand, 75 km north of Masterton and 25 km east of Palmerston North. The 2013 census showed that 1401 people reside in Woodville.

Ashhurst Place in Manawatu-Wanganui Region, New Zealand

Ashhurst is a small town in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of New Zealand's North Island.

Manawatu River river in New Zealand

The Manawatu River, often spelled Manawatū in New Zealand English, is a major river of the lower North Island of New Zealand.

Ngaio, New Zealand Suburb in Wellington City, New Zealand

Ngaio is an inner suburb of Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. It is situated on the slopes of Mount Kaukau, 3500 metres north of the city's CBD. It was settled in the 1840s and many of its streets are named after early settler families. Ngaio was originally a logging community known first as Upper Kaiwarra, then as Crofton until 1908. The area was administratively part of a separate local authority called the Onslow Borough Council which amalgamated with Wellington City in 1919.

Te Apiti is a wind farm owned and operated by Meridian Energy. It is located on 11.5 km² of land north of the Manawatu Gorge in the North Island of New Zealand. At 90.75 MW, it was New Zealand's largest capacity wind farm until September 2007, when the third stage of the nearby Tararua Wind Farm was completed.

Bunnythorpe village in Manawatu-Wanganui Region, New Zealand

Bunnythorpe is a village in the Manawatu-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island, 10 km (6 mi) north of the region's major city, Palmerston North. Dairy farms predominate the surrounding area but the community facilities include Bunnythorpe School, with a roll of about 80 pupils as of 2010 as well as a Rugby Football Club, Country Club and several manufacturing plants. The population was 222 in the 2013 census.

Oroua River river in New Zealand

The Oroua River is a river of the southwestern North Island of New Zealand.

Wind power in New Zealand

Wind power in New Zealand generates a small but growing proportion of the country's electricity. As of December 2017, wind power accounts for 690 MW of installed capacity and over 5 percent of electricity generated in the country.

State Highway 3 (New Zealand) Road in New Zealand

State Highway 3 (SH 3) is one of New Zealand's eight national state highways. It serves the west coast of the country's North Island and forms a link between State Highway 1 and State Highway 2. Distances are measured from north to south.

The Manawatū Standard is the daily paper for the Manawatu region based in Palmerston North with satellites in Feilding and Marton. The Manawatū Standard has been recognised as one of the best in New Zealand being a finalist in the 2008 Qantas Media Award for best regional daily newspaper; it won the same category in 2007. It also won Best Headline and Student Journalist of the Year at the Qantas Media Awards 2017. in feilding manawatu

State Highway 57 (New Zealand) road in New Zealand

State Highway 57 (SH 57) is a New Zealand state highway, linking State Highway 1 north of Ohau to State Highway 3 east of Ashhurst, via Levin, Shannon, Massey University and the southern suburbs of Palmerston North. The highway connects State Highway 1 traffic coming north from Wellington to the city of Palmerston North, and further to the Manawatu Gorge, allowing passage to the eastern side of the North Island and to the twin cities of Napier and Hastings. The highway is classified by the NZTA as a national strategic road.

State Highway 43 (New Zealand) road in New Zealand

New Zealand State Highway 43, also called the Forgotten World Highway, is a road that runs 148 km from Stratford in Taranaki to Taumarunui in the King Country. It contains the only unsealed portion of the New Zealand state highway network.

Karioi mountain in New Zealand

Karioi or Mount Karioi is a 2.4 million year old extinct volcano 8 km SW of Raglan in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island. It was the earliest of the line of 6 calcalkalic volcanoes, the largest of which is Mount Pirongia. Karioi forms a background to many parts of Raglan.

2016 Kaikoura earthquake

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was a magnitude 7.8 (Mw) earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand that occurred two minutes after midnight on 14 November 2016 NZDT. Ruptures occurred on multiple faults and the earthquake has been described as the "most complex earthquake ever studied".

Apiti is a small township in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located to the northeast of the small town of Kimbolton in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region. It is located on a small plain, the Apiti Flats, close to the valley and gorge of the Oroua River, and close to the foot of the Ruahine Range.


  1. "Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge". Destination Manawatu. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  2. Mathew Grocott (28 April 2015). "Alternatives to Gorge carry hefty price tag". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  3. "Manawatu Gorge on AA Maps". New Zealand Automobile Association . Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  4. Janine Rankin (14 April 2015). "Frustration mounts over Manawatu Gorge closure". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  5. "Manawatu Gorge Steam Railway Excursion". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  6. "Manawatu Gorge to open today". 3 News NZ. 29 August 2012.
  7. "Rock blasting closes Manawatu Gorge". 3 News NZ. 30 October 2012.
  8. "Manawatu Gorge recovery effort officially finished". New Zealand Transport Agency. 16 November 2012.
  9. Thomas Heaton (15 May 2015). "Manawatu Gorge fully reopens after slip site cleared". Manawatu Standard. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  10. "Manawatu Gorge to remain closed 'for some time'". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  12. "Thirteen alternative routes to Gorge discussed". Stuff (Fairfax). 25 September 2017.
  13. "Alternatives to Gorge carry heavy price tag". Stuff (Fairfax). 28 April 2015.
  14. "Four alternatives to Gorge". Stuff (Fairfax). 11 October 2017.
  15. "The final decision: what replaces the slip-plagued Manawatu Gorge Road". Stuff (Fairfax). 16 March 2018.
  16. "Manawatu Gorge Track". Department of Conservation . Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  17. "Manawatu Gorge Tracks brochure" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  18. "The Story of Whatonga". Horizons Regional Council. Archived from the original on 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  19. "Whatonga sculpture watches over walkers". Manawatu Standard. 12 April 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-17.

Coordinates: 40°19′06″S175°47′53″E / 40.3184°S 175.7980°E / -40.3184; 175.7980