Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989

High Hopes: The history of the Nelson Mineral Belt and New Zealand's first railway

page 43

High Hopes: The history of the Nelson Mineral Belt and New Zealand's first railway

Available from booksellers or direct from the publishers, Nikau Press, PO Box 602, Nelson, at $37.95 (post-free)

After many publications as a professional geologist, the Society's former presidents has produced a very readable, detailed and thoroughly researched history of Nelson's eastern hills. Despite the outwardly barren appearance of these hills Mike Johnston establishes their surprisingly important contribution to the history of the wider region in this attractively produced book.

After a brief introduction to the area's unusual geology, the author begins with the exploitation of the Maitai argillite resource by the early Maori, and then gives serious attention to the heady Dun Mountain developments of the early 1860s. The author shows that while mineral. wealth was certainly seen as the answer to the region's lack of economic momentum, with the Dun Mountain and its railway being the most tangible expression of this, such 'high hopes' were never to be borne out.

In other chapters Mike Johnston traces the history of smaller developments between D'Urville Island and the Red Hills in the south, and explains the relics and remaining impressions on the landscape – a valuable exercise in itself. In many of these isolated localities it seems that the search for economic minerals would be one of the few excuses for human activity there!

The other big story of these hills, that of the mines of the upper Aniseed Valley, features in the latter part of the book. It is easy to forget that Nelson has had two (albeit short-lived) copper smelters, but here is a thought-provoking account of them – a human story of enterprise, folly and greed. With considerable detail, and colour the author has given us a firm feeling for the times.

An accomplished history is always such a pleasure to read. Works such as 'High Hopes 'have a double value – the first reading, of course, but also the later occasions when one returns to chapters of particular interest, or again picks up the book to settle a point of contention (or confusion!). This publication serves its historical purpose admirably, and is also an excellent guide to what can be seen on the ground today.

'High Hopes 'is a large, soft-bound book, complete with glossary, references and an index, and well illustrated, with over 100 photos, maps and facsimiles. If this is only the first of a number of local, histories that the author has in mind then we are most fortunate.

Steve Bagley