One of New Zealand’s largest landlocked cities, PALMERSTON NORTH (as opposed to Palmerston near Dunedin, and known as “Palmy”) is the thriving capital of the province of Manawatu, with around 80,000 residents, including a lively student population attending Massey University. After the arrival of the rail line in 1886, Palmerston North flourished, thanks to its pivotal position at the junction of road and rail routes, reflected today by some fine civic buildings, notably an excellent museum and gallery and a stunning library. Nonetheless, an unimpressed John Cleese famously claimed, “If you want to kill yourself but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.” The town responded by naming the local rubbish dump after him.
The city’s main cultural event, the Festival of Cultures (w foc.co.nz), takes place around The Square in March (22nd & 23rd in 2013) with a Friday-night lantern festival and a Saturday craft, food and music fair. Artists who recently played at WOMAD in New Plymouth often turn up on the bill.