New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, sits at the southwestern tip of North Island near the Cook Strait. The city in the second largest in New Zealand (after Auckland), and at 41 south latitude, it is the southernmost capital city in the world. The North and South Islands of New Zealand are located along the active Australian-Pacific tectonic plate boundary. The glancing collision of these two tectonic plates results in uplift of the land surface, expressed as low hills on North Island and the Southern Alps on South Island.
Local topography visible in this astronaut photograph is a result of these tectonic forces and weathering, and the topography has exerted a strong influence on the shape of the city. The tightly clustered white rooftops of the central business district are visible to the south of the Westpac Stadium between vegetated (green) northeast-southwest trending ridges. Lower density development (gray gridded areas with scattered white rooftops) has spread eastwards along the Miramar Peninsula.
Five major faults run through the Wellington metropolitan area; the largest magnitude earthquake recorded in New Zealand (about 8.2 magnitude) occurred in 1855 on one of these faults. Recognizing the potential seismic hazard, the city has adopted building codes that maximize structural resistance to earthquake damage.