Finding Middle New Zealand

Have you every wondered where the middle of New Zealand is?

Nelson claims to be the centre of New Zealand but this is not entirely correct.

In the early days of European settlement in New Zealand, independent surveyors made isolated surveys that were not connected up. In the 1870s, it was decided to connect these up by a geodetic survey (one that takes into account the curvature of the earth) and John Spence Browning, the Chief Surveyor for Nelson was the only surveyor with the practical experience to do the job. Because he was located in Nelson he was instructed to begin the job here and to extend the survey south to the West Coast.

Later it was connected up to surveys from Canterbury. Using the triangulation method to make the survey, John Spence Browning took the easily accessible Zig Zag track to the summit of the Botanical Hill and made this the starting point for the apex of his first set of triangles. The base line for the triangle was laid out in what is now Rutherford Street, between Examiner St and Haven Rd and this is why Nelson was deemed to be the middle of New Zealand.

Then in 1962 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research conducted a gravity survey that took in Stewart Island, the North and South Islands, and the smaller inshore islands, but not the Chathams. This survey located the centre of New Zealand at 41deg. 30min S., 172deg. 50min E., which is a point in the Spooners Range in the Golden Downs Forest.

The North Island Centre

 The geographical centre of the North Island is marked by a plinth that lies deep in the Pureora Forest north-west of Lake Taupo. This is not too far from Waimiha where I was brought up on our family farm but I never knew about this then.

This point was first located in November 1961 by Mr John Wheeler , a registered Surveyor from Taupo with the assistance of the Department of Lands and Survey and is: S 38° 31.515 E 175° 40.370

At the”centre” is a plinth with two engraved plaques. the plinth can be reached easily along a bush walking track, a short distance from the carpark, after a long drive into the forest on a rough gravel road. Follow Link Road until you reach a signpost for the Centre of the North Island.

Engraved on a plaque……. “How This Point Was Located” explains that “A large map of the North Island, approximately 1 metre in length, was mounted onto rigid cardboard.The cardboard was then bent to represent the curvature of the earth, and suspended using a pin and thin nylon, until a perfect balance was obtained. This point, the centre of gravity, indicated the North Island’s geographic centre.”

Simple but effective.

Then There Is Middle Earth …

Not literally, but The Lord of The Rings has made New Zealand “Middle Earth” after the filmwas released in 2001.

Lonely Planet – Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand

The Official Travel Website for New Zealand

More than 150 locations throughout the country were used to film The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy and a tourism boom has seen many of these become ‘must do’ experiences for film enthusiasts.

Kiwi Trivia Series

This is part of my Kiwi Trivia series.

I plan to write at least one article per week on something interesting about our great country.

For more inspiration on the best things that New Zealand has to offer you could read this list of the 100 Best Things to do in New Zealand.

You can follow here under Kiwi Trivia on my blog or on the Kiwi Trivia Page on Facebook and I ask that if you enjoy this please spread the word by sharing on your own Facebook or other social media.