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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)

The Canterbury Association

The Canterbury Association.

The genesis of the colonising effort so far as Canterbury Province is concerned centres in the organisation, in England, towards the middle of last century, of the Canterbury Association. This Association was organised for the purpose of founding a settlement in New Zealand. The Association appointed, as Chief Surveyor, Captain Joseph Thomas (who had previously been in the colony and knew something of its geography), and directed him to proceed to New Zealand, decide upon the site of the settlement, and make preparation for the reception of the settlers. On arrival in Canterbury he considered several suggested sites, and chose the Port Cooper Plains, as North Canterbury was then called.

The Association acquired from the New Zealand Company an area of land, approximately two and a half million acres in extent, between the Ashburton and Waipara Rivers. In reporting upon the suitability for settlement of the Port Cooper Plains, one of the New Zealand Company's surveyors (Mr. H. J. Cridland) showed the advantages of the locality in comparison with earlier settlements elsewhere in New Zealand. In effect his report was: “No natives; no floods; no bush to cut down; a port easy of access.” Though the port was easy of access from the sea, it was by no means easy of access from the land side. Captain Thomas made a landing place at the present town of Lyttelton, and constructed, from there, a bridle path over the hills to Heathcote Valley. As this route was not suitable for wheeled traffic, he also laid out a road over Evans Pass to Sumner. Some progress had been made on this road when the principal Resident Agent of the Association (Mr. J. R. Godley) arrived at Port Cooper some months in advance of the main body of settlers. Mr. Godley, finding the available funds of the Association were exhausted, suspended further operations.