Events In History

Main town of northern Wairarapa, set in the Mangatainoka River valley. Pahīatua was established in 1881 in the densely forested area known as the Forty Mile Bush. At first it was a timber town, but once the bush was cleared it became a service centre for the dairying and sheep farming hinterland. The Pahīatua camp was set up during the Second World War to intern ‘enemy aliens’, who were moved there from Somes Island in 1943. In 1944 they were sent back to the island, and the camp became home to 734 Polish children, refugees from war-torn Europe. Most of them became New Zealanders. In 1975 some came back to Pahīatua to unveil a memorial sculpture on the site, just south of the town.

Meaning of place name
The town’s name comes from the Māori words for resting place (pahi) and god (atua). One interpretation is that a chief escaping from enemies was led by his god to a hill, where he rested.