Marton is a town in the Rangitikei district of the Manawatu-Wanganui region of New Zealand's North Island. It is situated 35 kilometres southeast of Wanganui and 40 kilometres northwest of Palmerston North. The town of Marton is the largest in the Rangitikei district, and began life as a private township in 1866, when shop and housing sections were sold at auction by local land owners.
At the time of the 2013 census, the town had 4,548 residents.
Marton has always been a service town for the fertile farming region of the Manawatu Plains. Butter, wool, and flour have been among its agricultural products. The arrival of the railway in 1878 led to rapid growth in the area, which soon added industries such as engineering, sawmilling, and textile production to its economy.
State Highway 3 passes through Marton. This national state highway, one of only eight in New Zealand, connects Woodville (25 km east of Palmerston North) and Hamilton via New Plymouth.
The nearest airports to the town are Whanganui Airport, located 37 km west, and Palmerston North Airport, located 44 km southeast. Both airports are domestic only.
RNZAF Base Ohakea is located approximately 10 kilometres south of Marton and as such many Air Force personnel live in Marton.
Marton disposes of six primary schools and two secondary schools. Huntley School is an Anglican boarding school which until 2014 was for boys only; it has a roll of 134.
Other primary schools include James Cook School, Marton Junction School, Marton School, South Makirikiri School and St Matthew's School.
For three years the small village was known as Tutaenui, named after the stream running through its centre. In 1869 local citizens changed the name to Marton to honour the home village of Captain James Cook in Yorkshire, marking his landing in New Zealand exactly 100 years earlier. It is not known if this change of name was influenced by the mistranslation of 'tutae' (meaning 'dung') and 'nui' (meaning 'large').
(Actual translation: 'tu' -stand, 'tae' -arrive, 'nui' big; i.e., a 'big gathering').
From the start Marton was an ideal supply centre for district farmers, who first began arriving in the early 1850s. From butter and wool they moved on to growing wheat in 1863, and big crops led to three flourmills being launched in the area in 1864.
After the town itself opened up in 1866, general stores, two hotels and several blacksmiths soon started. Marton became a home base for the horse industry, with saddlers, wheelwrights, livery stables and coachbuilders competing for business, while Clydesdale and Suffolk Punch sires toured the district to build up the population of plough horses needed as new farms sprang into being. The opening of the railway line joining Wanganui to Palmerston North in 1878, now part of the North Island Main Trunk Railway (towards Palmerston North and Auckland) and the Marton - New Plymouth Line (towards Wanganui), turned Marton Railway Station into a thriving railway junction, and it held that position for the next 100 years.
Timber from Rangitikei forests served the town’s two timbermills, the first from 1889 onwards.
Industry developed quietly at first in Marton, starting with flourmilling, brickmaking and wool presses. By the late 1950s there was an incredible array of industries and factories in action. They turned out products as diverse as men’s shirts, tractor safety cabs, soft drinks, vegetable salads, readymix concrete, field tiles, dog biscuits, knitwear, dried peas, electronic petrol pumps, vegetable digging machinery.
9 km from Marton was the large Lake Alice Hospital for psychiatric patients, which opened in 1950 and closed in 1999. It included a maximum security unit, and housed hundreds of patients during its 49 years of operation