Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 4, October 1984
Nelson City Council Buys Tahuna Beach
Nelson City Council Buys Tahuna Beach
How did Nelson City Council come to buy Tahunanui Beach? The main reason, I suggest, was the great rise in popularity of the beach after the opening of the Rocks Road in the nineties of last century.
It is true that the beach had attracted swimmers and sunbathers for many years prior to this. The earliest mention I have found is in an entry in Monro's Diary for December 1860. "After luncheon, Dally and Aleck and I rode over the Port Hills to the beach and then along to the mouth of Martin's Creek where we bathed." At this time Jenkins Creek flowed across the flat land of the golf links and the aerodrome and emptied into the sea by Monaco (Martin's land). H. P. Kidson, in his book, "A Nelson Boyhood", tells how he and his brothers often climbed the Port Hills from Toitoi Valley and swam and lay in the sun by the waters of Tasman Bay. His was not an exceptional case as many of the older residents could testify. It was a common thing to climb up from the town and scramble down the Port Hills either at a spot near Magazine Point, where Day's Track emerges, or further along past the slips and muddy ponds of Moana and then picnic on the beach.
But the opening of the Rocks Road in the eighteen-nineties, and we must remember that the road was passable(?) for traffic as early as 1895, brought the beach within reach of most of the citizens of Nelson. By 1899, after the formal opening of the road by the Premier, the Right Honourable Richard Seddon, the road was well established and although dangerous at times, and fairly narrow, it was used by the public generally. The Colonist, in its article on the Anniversary Day holiday in February 1899, said, "The Sands were visited by a large number and a visit to the spot at such a time must make it clear to the dullest that the people here have a heritage that must be conserved so that the fullest advantage can be taken of the resort."
It is obvious from this that the people of Nelson considered the beach was theirs to use although, in fact, it was still part of Green's land and some friction must have ensued. From what I have heard from the accounts of early visitors to the beach, the Greens were, at first, quite agreeable and even supplied the water for the odd picnickers. But I can quite understand their dismay at the later inrush of picnickers who swarmed over their land, probably leaving gates open and dropping litter in the shape of papers and broken bottles.
At this point the Nelson City Council felt that some solution to the problem must be found. As early as February 1899, the Works Committee recommended that the Waimea County Council be approached, with reference to the formation of a road along the edge of the beach in front of the Green property. They proposed that the Green Estate be given an unused road that ran through their property from the bottom of Tamaki Street, in exchange. This recommendation and urgings to the Council through letters, swayed the Council and it was decided that the City Surveyor inspect the road and report to the next meeting of the Council. Councillor Baigent said he thought it desirable that action should be taken at once to get the exchange of roads, thus securing a road in continuation of the Rocks Road and to cut off Mr Green's property from the sea! He proposed that a sub-committee which was meeting the Waimea County Council, should be empowered to bring this matter up also. One or two of the councillors were a little dubious of this attempt to force the Greens' hands.
By September 1899 the question had been settled for a map in the Lands & Survey Office shows a survey carried out by Mr Browning, in which the new road had been placed and the old road to be closed was also shown. But the City Council apparently were not satisfied with this and went further until the Executors of the Green Estate offered to sell them the whole of Tahunanui Beach.
By May 13th, 1899, the Colonist was able to print:page 37
Showing road to be exchanged.
Suburban South, Waimea Survey District.
To be purchased by the City for 300 pounds.
"At the City Council meeting, last night, the Mayor, on behalf of Councillors Baigent, Piper and himself, the Sub-committee appointed, reported they had interviewed Mr George Green, one of the late Mr Green's executors, on the ground, and that gentleman had offered to sell to the Council for 500 pounds the land on the seaward side of a line from the Rocks Road to the black log at the far end of the sands and the Executors would also exchange for the right of a road running in the centre of the paddocks near the end on the Rocks Road, a road leading from the Rocks Road to the sandhills, this road passing to the left of the Beacon. Mr Green estimated that the area would be acquired by the Council under these conditions would be 66 acres, and the acceptance of the offer would secure all the foreshore rights as well.
"Subsequently, the Mayor met all the executors of the Estate and they agreed to accept 300 pounds which would remain at interest at 5 per cent.
"The matter was fully discussed and it was unanimously resolved to accept this offer. The Mayor and Councillors Baigent, Piper and C. Harley were appointed a Sub-committee to carry out the transaction."
I could find no reference to this purchase in the Council's Jubilee Handbook, but came across one in notes made by Karl Akers, one of Edward Green's grandsons. He gave the actual minute of the City Council, apparently copied from the Council's Minutes.
Minute – 12th May, 1899.
The Mayor reported the result of an interview between the Executors of the Estate of E. Green and himself:–
Proposed by Cr Harley, seconded by Cr Rout: "That the Council enter into a proper agreement with the Executors of the Estate of E. Green for the purchase of the sandhills and the foreshore offered by them for a sum of 300 pounds and that the Committee appointed to interview Mr Green's executors, viz. the Mayor, and Councillors Baigent and Piper, with the addition of Cr Harley, be appointed to carry the resolution into effect."
Discussion ensued. Question put. Carried.
F. Trask, Mayor.
I then made further investigations to confirm the Council's purchase of Tahunanui Beach by inspecting the relevant deeds and transfers in the Lands & Survey Office records. I found three documents on the subject which rather puzzled me at first, but gradually I realised that they were, first an Agreement to Purchase and Sell the Land, dated 1899, the actual Transfer of the Title to the Land, which was dated 1909, and also a Declaration of Trust Deed, 1910.
The Agreement for Sale and Purchase of the land was signed at the end of 1899 and registered at the Lands & Survey Office by April 7th, 1900. The map included in the documents, showed the land purchased arranged in two schedules – the First Schedule included the land to High Water Mark as shown in the Crown Grant of the 1850's, while the Second Schedule showed the land that had accrued by gradual accretion in the fifty years following. Apparently, under the law, if you owned land to High Water Mark, any land that built up by accretion gradually, and actually abutted on your land, belonged to you. In this way the Green's Estate — The Sands — was increased by approximately 150 acres, mostly sandhills and mudflats, but worth thousands of pounds to Nelson today. The price was to be 300 pounds.
The Conditions of Sale were laid down in the Deed. There was nothing unusual about them.page 39
The Sands Reserve as Purchased by City Councilpage 40
The sum of 300 pounds was to be paid by 4th June, 1904, and interest was to be paid half-yearly, starting with a first payment on 24th December, 1899. The amount of interest was 5 pounds per annum. The Council was to have legal possession of the land from 24th June, 1899. The buyers had the right to pay the purchase price earlier, if they wished, provided that due notice was given. Other provisions were that the Council was to be responsible for the payment of rates and taxes on the land, there was to be no grazing of stock on the land and any stock there could be impounded; the Council was to be responsible for the good condition of all fences except the main boundary fence between Green's land and the Council's property.
On the map, the new road was shown, our present Beach Road, which was to be constructed and was to run just in front of the Pilot Beacon, while another road running at right angles from the beach to the Main Road at the bottom of Tamaki Street, was to be closed. This paper road ran along the northern boundary of Section Twelve and was never formed.
The signatories to the Agreement to Sell were Bernhardt Henry Moller and Helen Baigent for the Council and James B. Green, Arthur Ernest Green, George Green, James Smith, who was Mrs Green's brother, and Percy B. Adams.
Whether the price was actually paid by the time stipulated, I am unable to say, but the next document, the Transfer of Title, was not registered until 1909. So the Council, and the people of Nelson, possibly used the land for ten years before they had completely paid for it.
Perhaps the Council and suceeding Councils were too poor to pay for it. In 1899, the Council's finances were certainly in a poor way — the Mayor's honorarium was abolished and the Chief Surveyor's salary was cut by 50 pounds. Councillor Harley proposed that rates be raised by 3 pence in the pound but the Council hurriedly rejected this.
They were already paying for the Rocks Road by a special penny rate and found it hard to meet all their commitments. The loan for the new abattoirs building at Tahuna was 7,500 pounds at 4%, the Rocks Road loan of 1892 was 4,000 pounds at 5% and other expenditure was needed for a water supply, drainage, and sewerage to combat the epidemics that were raging in the town.
But by 1909 the price had been paid and the Deed of Transfer to the City Council was signed. The price was now 305 pounds 12 shillings and 6 pence. The Executors of the Green Estate also signed the document but under slightly different circumstances — James Smith had died in 1903 and Percy B. Adams was out of the country. Charles Harley signed in his place. George Green was still at the Sands but part of the land had been sold and the other two sons had shifted to the North Island - James Burn Green signed as sheep farmer, Napier, and Arthur Green, as sheep farmer, Masterton.
In January 1910 a Declaration by Deed was made by the Mayor, J. Piper, and the Town Clerk, G. A. Edmonds. It was a long document, but its main provision was a Declaration of Trust by the Council, Mayor and citizens of Nelson, that the lands hereditaments comprised in the within written deed of conveyance, were purchased by the Council to provide for the health, amusement, and instruction of the inhabitants of Nelson and to be used for pleasure gardens or for any other purpose of enjoyment or recreation and so on.
In the interval of time between the signing of the two documents — the 1899 Agreement to Sell and the 1909 acquisition of the Title deeds, the Nelson Harbour Board had been established and had been endowed with the foreshore along Tahuna Beach. They naturally wanted all they were entitled to and there was considerable argument about who owned what and great consulting of legal opinion, but a letter in the Council Records from Pitt & Moore, dated a late as 1922, said that the Harbour Board could not claim more than the boundary from time to time of the sea and such boundary could easily move seaward with each recession of the sea from the land. I don't know how the argument finished but it appears that the Council still owns the land it bought from the Greens.
It seems that the Council made a good bargain and it would be hard to estimate the value of the area today and it effects on the people of Nelson.