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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 6, March 1964

Contract Signed

Contract Signed.

Mr. Henry Wrigg, an English engineer with considerable experience in railway construction (and afterwards Chief Engineer to Auckland Province until the abolition of the provinces in 1876), was engaged in 1867 to make a reconnaissance survey of the line, and his report was published in May, 1868. (7). Mr. Wrigg reported that the flat land along the route amounted to only about 150,000 acres, and would be quite insufficient in itself to attract capitalists to build the line, but with the mineral rights extended to include both the Brunner and Buller coalfields "the amount of wealth awaiting collection would be enormous" and the project could not fail of success.

With enabling legislation enacted by Parliament and with the Wrigg report, supplemented by reports on the coalfield and other natural resources of the area, the result was, that by the end of 1868, a draft contract for the undertaking, plus a power of attorney to the provincial agent in London, were in being. The provincial agent, Mr. John Morrison, promptly set to work in 1869. The first contractors approached were the firm of Sir Charles Fox and Sons, and they went fully into the project with Mr. Morrison and Mr. A. Fitzgibbon, then in London (formerly engineer for the Dun Mountain line.) On finding that the West Coast and Brunner coalfields were not included in the endowment, as strongly recommended in the Wrigg report, Mr. Fox lost interest, as did another prospective contracting firm. However, this omission was rectified by the Provincial Council, and by June, 1870, the contract was ready for signing with John Brogden and Sons. A money market crisis at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussion War brought more delay, but early in 1871 the contract was signed, and passages for their engineers to Nelson booked.