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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 6, April 1973



page 12

The area immediately north of Nelson City was surveyed and given the name Suburban North by the New Zealand Company Surveyors in 1842 and was therefore one of the earliest parts of the province to be allocated to settlers.

Wakapuaka was the Maori name for the area in the vicinity of the Glen, Mackays Bluff, Hira, Cable Bay and Delaware Bay. The Examiner (newspaper) in May 1843 gave the name as Wauka-pa-wauka but many settlers, unable to pronounce the name as the Maoris did, simply called the district Hokeepokee.

When the original land survey was made the road went round the foreshore and this line appears to have been used with only minor deviations until the present State Highway was built in recent years. This scenic road left the sea and continued to the Wakapuaka River and the district with its various settlements, now modern suburbs, is still popularly referred to as Wakapuaka ("Walker p'walk").*

In tracing the original settlers one immediately comes up against the problem that many of the original section holders were simply investors or absentee owners, and only a few of these people settled in the district, others, employees or probably squatters, gained ownership later.

Many sections were allocated in 1842 but only four of the new owners began cultivating their land in that year, and of these only Robert Todd and William Wells were residents.

* The Nelson Historical Society's field trip proceeded northwards from the City and for this article the same pattern will be followed.

Wakapuaka Road

It is probable that North Road within the City area was intended to be the road to Suburban North but to avoid crossing the mud-flats a road was later cut round the foot of the hill.

One writer who joined a working party making the Wakapuaka road has left a record of that time. The party was 16 men plus an overseer or ganger but only two or three were regular navvy types and most were unaccustomed to this work. Their road section was about eight miles from the town where a siding was being cut round the base of hills washed by tide at high water. To reach it this man walked, and stated, "A considerable part of the road I had to travel lay across mud-flats covered by the tide at highwat-r, and into which I sank over my boots at each step, and occasionally to the page 13knees in crossing the numerous water-courses that intersected the flats".

They had not been working many weeks when news came about the Wairau Massacre so the road party constituted a watch, and were sworn in as special constables (to keep a watch), in case Te Raupa-raha landed further north and attacked Nelson from the land.

The only settler he mentions is Francis Jollie, who was apparentely already living in the area.

The year 1843 saw the start of "cottier" farming when the New Zealand Company agent, F. Tuckett, let road workers take up unoccupied sections of land to work.

(At the time of the anniversary of the settlements in 1845 it was stated that there were nine miles of road towards Wakapuaka).

Some indication as to the further development of the road is contained in an advertisement in the Examiner in March 1862 when the Suburban North Road Board were calling tenders for repairs and formation as follows:—

1.Cemetery to Selmes' Bridge.
2.Selmes' Bridge to Saltwater Bridge at Todd's Bush,
3.Saltwater Bridge to Mr. Collins' Gate.

From the latter point to the bridge on the Ludd.

Specifications at the Black Horse. R. Pollock, Chairman.

Funds to build and maintain the roads v/ere a problem but when a meeting of ratepayers met in 1871 to consider the erection of a toll gate the proposal was soundly rejected.

Wakapuaka Cemetery

When a decision was made in the late 1850's to close the Hallowell cemetery in Shelbourne Street the Provincial Secretary, Alfred Domett, advertised for a block of land which could be be used for a cemetery. It was not to be in the town nor to be more distant than two miles from Trafalgar Square and also to consist of not less than 25 acres. The present site was chosen from the properties offered. In February 1861 tenders were called for sixty chains of wood fencing but this suffered badly in a fire in March 1864. A bush fire spread through the grounds destroying trees and consumed a considerable portion of the fencing. (The new lawn cemetery at Marsden Valley was consecrated in 1956).

J. D. Peart, in Old Tasman Bay, stated that the hill occupied by the cemetery was said to have been the site of a fortified Maori pa.

Bay View Hotel

This could not have been a licensed house for long but in the late 1860's and early 1870's the license was held by Newman Boseley.

page 14

Selmes' Bridge

In earlier times the stream now known as Oldham's Creek took the name of the then owner, James Selmes, and "Selmes' Bridge" was a well known feature. An 1856 map (Section 11) showed that he held both sides of the stream. Early in the 1860's Selmes sold the property and went to the Wairau to take up land at Spring Creek.

Dodson's Valley

Thomas Dodson, who came out on the Nelson Expedition ship, "Will Watch," in 1841, lived at the top of the valley. His wife and family came out on the "Lloyds". Thomas Dodson was a well known figure in the community being a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, the Suburban North Road Board, the Suburban North Committee of Education, and other bodies.

In 1854 his brother, Joseph Reid Dodson, came out to New Zealand and within a few days of his arrival at Nelson he went into partnership with the brewer, G. Hooper, trading under the name of Hooper & Co. J. R. Dodson later became Nelson's first Mayor.

Oldham's Creek — Atawhai

James Oldham, 'a retired gentleman', lived just across Oldham's Creek at Dodson's Valley. It was said that at one time Dodson and Oldham were the only two residents in the immediate locality. Oldham used to place cases of fruit on a seat beside the road with a notice inviting passers by to help themselves. This resulted in the place becoming known as "Atawhai", meaning 'to show kindness or generosity'. Years later when a post office was started in James Oldham's house the name of Atawhai was adopted for the district.

J. D. Peart stated that there was the site of an old Maori pa beside Oldham's Creek.


William Wells was an original pioneer settler who started farming the area in 1842. He appears to have been a man of independent means. In May, 1843, when he was leaving for England, he was given a farewell and described as "a good farmer." His farm was then known as "Marybank", and the highest part is known as Wells Hill (1503 feet). Upon his return to Nelson a few years later (in or before 1849) he occupied a seat on various local bodies, being a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, the Suburban North Road Board, and the Suburban North Committee of Education. He was also a member of the House of Representatives from 1861 to 1870.

In 1855 William Wells was named as one of the seven trustees elected to administer the Nelson Trust Funds including the portion page 15set aside for higher education. In 1857 he became a member of the first Board of Governors of Nelson College.

Wells was also interested in various mining undertakings.

When a German settler, Heeman (pronounced Hayman), owned Marybank he built a house with mud walls two feet thick. Some people can remember when a bachelor, Scott Wells, owned the property, and it changed hands several times prior to James Thomas Barnes becoming the owner.

Atawhai Church

A map of the area made by J. W. Beauchamp in 1856 showed a church and school at, or near, the present site but it is not known what body was responsible for the church since the Nelson Diocese was not formed until 1859.

The present church known as St. Peter's by the Strand was built on land given for the purpose by William Barnett. He had two sons, William and David, both well known in the district. David's wedding was the first to take place in the church.

Clifton Terrace

Early settlers but possibly not actual pioneers in the strict sense were William Oldham, a brother of James Oldham, and William Northam. This man was a son of William Northam snr., of North Taunton, Devonshire, who came out in the "Sir Charles Forbes" in 1842, but was killed at the Wairau Affray. Mrs. Northam, his widow, became the second wife of Thomas Dodson, of Dodson's valley. Other well known residents were Major Erskine and Howard Weller who lived where the Crewenna Pottery is now.

Todd's Valley

Dr. Robert Tod (as his name was then spelt) sailed from Sydney to New Zealand in 1839 by the cutter "Success", arriving at either Port Nicholson or Mana Island on December 6, 1839. He took up a section at Suburban North in 1842 and went there to live, shortly after establishing a dairy farm. In 1848 he was referred to as 'Robert Tod, Ellendale, gentleman'. It would appear that he took up further land including the area always referred to as 'Todd's Bush'. While in Nelson he was one of the Magistrates. He had come to New Zealand originally for health reasons but as his health did not improve he returned to England and died there.

When the land was sold a number of new owners took over, including Small, Harry Wastney, Cummings and Sutherland. George Cummings took over the land at the head of the valley and this has remained in the Cummings family until recent years. A man named Small took over part of Todd's Valley and the family lived there for page 16many years. A cob house was built, first with two rooms and a lean-to, and further rooms were added later. Irvine Norris from Yorkshire, bought part of the Small property and some of his descendants still live in the valley.

At one time a German settler, C. H. Martin, lived near where the blue metal quarry is. He was chairman of the school committee and he left money to provide Martin prizes for the school children.

Sunnybank Boys' Home

This large modern building is on the site of an early farm house.

Black Horse Hotel

Originally the Black Bull, it is said to have been established in 1846. Certainly it was referred to in a news item of 1849 and it was apparently a well known institution by that time. The 1855 applications for Publican's Bush Licenses included one from William Dyson for a renewal of the licence for the Black Bull. A year or two later the licence was held by John Wastney (sawyer and publican) and the establishment was then called the Black Horse. The hotel continued to be known as the Black Horse and was a licensed house until recent years being burned in 1959 and the licence has since lapsed.

A sign stated that the Black Horse was the "last Hotel for 38 miles." The licensing laws used to state that if people had travelled more than four miles they could be served with drinks. As this applied to evenings and holidays the Black Horse gained a good deal of town trade.


William Charles Hodgson, a Manchester cotton spinner, came to Nelson on the "Himalaya" in 1844 and took up 50 acres of land at Wakapuaka where he and his large young family struggled to make an existence. The property was named after the home district in Lancashire. He died in 1847. The family prospered and a son, also William Charles Hodgson, educated at the Manchester Grammar School, became a teacher and, in 1863, was appointed Inspector of Schools.

Rivington was later owned by William Wastney whose descendants still reside there.

William Wastney came to Nelson in 1842 with his mother on the "Lloyds," his father having arrived with Wakefield's Expedition. As a lad he did his fair share of hard work in the new settlement, joined his father in the building trade, and later moved with his page 17parents to Wakapuaka where his father had taken up land. He took a keen interest in local, as well as general, politics and served on various local bodies and organisations.

The original house, built about 1861, was burned, A few years ago the old barn was pulled down. The framework was all pitsawn timber while some uprights were whole tree trunks complete with bark.

Glenduan and Hillside

James Mackay named his property "Drumduan" after his Scottish Highland home while the little valley now known as The Glen was named by him as Glenduan.* James Mackay was an original section holder, a banker connected with Lloyds of London, and still their agent after arriving in Nelson. He chartered the "Slains Castle" to bring everything out—family, servants, furniture and animals—all arriving here in 1845. The ship first put in near what is now Mackays Bluff but, as conditions were too rough to unload there, continued on to Port Nelson.

The Maori chief Paremata disputed Mackay's title but his land was plainly not inside the Native Reserve. The original house site was about 250 yards north of the present farm house and dairy, being built back nearer the gully. The carriage driveway can still be seen but the macrocarpa trees which lined it have now been removed. The old barn, still standing, although it has more recent additions to it, was constructed of imported timbers and apparently brought to New Zealand prefabricated. It is set on large boulders for piles. The framework was made of very hard, durable timber, and most of this is still sound.

Mackay was interested in flax-milling and used the water in the creek at The Glen (Waihi Creek) to drive machinery for the purpose. He also put in a water race to bring water from this creek round the hillside to his home. The springs in the gullies well up in Mt. Drumduan have never been known to go dry and this race is stiil used to bring water to the homes and farms in the area. The original race was possibly three quarters of a mile long but the last part is now piped and gives everyone an ample supply.

James Mackay represented Nelson in the first Parliament, 1854 or 1855, was a member of the Nelson Provincial Council, Committee of Education, Road Board, and other bodies. He was also Captain in the Volunteer Corps in 1860. He died in 1875 and the property has known various owners and boundary changes since.

James Mackay jnr., well known as the purchaser of the West Coast and as Warden on the goldflelds, was 14 years old when he arrived with his family in Nelson 1845 and died at Thames in 1912.

* And is so named on the latest Lands & Survey Department Typographical Map S14 (1967).

page 18

The Boulder Bank

The Boulder Bank which encloses Nelson Haven is about eight or nine miles long beginning at the Glen and reaching a point only a short distance from Tahunanui. The hill near Mackay's Bluff, and also that on Pepin Island, is largely made up of syenite outcrops and as the bluffs erode this hard form of rock, it falls into the sea. The north westerly currents and storms carry the rocks along wearing them smooth and rounded in the process, and the width of the bank has continued to grow.

From the hills above Mackays Bluff one can look right across to the north-west and see in the distance the hills near Puponga, and also Mt. Burnett near Collingwood.

Near the Glen there was a Maori camp site and it was said that both soil and stones found there were identified as having come from Riwaka. Most of the land inside the Boulder Bank was very swampy and when one considers these swamps and mudflats it is easy to believe that the Maoris preferred to travel to Wakatu (Nelson) by canoe rather than follow the longer tracks which had to go round the hills.

James Mackay attempted to drain some of the swamps but found no satisfactory way of getting an outlet through the Boulder Bank.

When the New Zealand Company surveyors were working in the area they drove a pipe on the flat near the mouth of the Glen and the land north of this point became the Native Reserve.


The present road from near the site of the Black Horse, past the Glen turn-off, travelling eastwards, does not follow the original line of the road. Originally the flats were very swampy so the road was made round the lower slopes of the hills so as to get a firm foundation, both church and school being built against the hill beside the road.

St. Andrew's Anglican Church was dedicated in 1865 and remained in use for many years. The many tombstones in the small burial ground give interesting details about early settlers.

Dennis Frost and his wife and family of ten children came by the "Mariner" from Norfolk in 1844. He had been a gamekeeper but he and his two sons, Walter and George, proved successful pioneers and farmers in the Hillside area. Many descendants still live in this district.

* The recent Lands & Survey Topographical Map S.14 (1967) names this area Wakapuaka.

page 19

Hillwood and Thackwood

The original owner of the land in the little valley leading towards Gentle Annie was Francis Jollie who was allocated Section 30 and later Section 31. This he called Hillwood. Two men soon had several acres down in crops and it is recorded that they formed a read from the farm to a boat landing on the beach. Jollie himself moved out to live on his property in 1844, but went to live in Canterbury in 1853.

William Bell took over the property in 1868 and lived there for a few years before moving to sheepruns in Marlborough, where the Bells became well known sheepmen at such places as Erina, Hillersden, Northbank, and other places. Two of Bell's sons married two of Edmund Wastney's daughters.

It would appear that Arthur Shuckburg Collyns* was the next owner. Collyns, a son-in-law of James Mackay, born in Devonshire, England, came to New Zealand in the ship "Pekin" in 1849. He tried exploring various routes through the ranges and it was he who blazed the track which eventually became the main road from Nelson through the Rai Valley to Marlborough. He was a member of various local bodies and became a Member of Parliament. An early Cob house had been replaced by a substantial wooden house to which Collyns added a large extension. This home is still standing but is now showing its age.

The 'Buller Lion', Eugene O'Connor, was the next owner, and he sold the property to Herbert O'Bierne whose family still reside there.

Little is known about Thackwood. It is believed to have been a prefabricated structure brought from England such as were then imported either for the New Zealand Company settlers or later for the New Zealand Government.

At one time it was owned by C. J. C. Dencker, son of a German settler, who became a sawmiller and went farming in the Whangamoa Valley.

* Then spelt Collyns or Collins.


Happy Valley was the name given to this locality by the surveyors although the Maori name had been Te Huinga Wai. The name of Happy Valley stuck and was only replaced in 1912 when the Post Office was established and the named changed back to Hira. The original Maori name meant 'the kissing waters' or 'meeting of the waters', and the area is said to have been the bed of an ancient lake. Flaxmilling was carried on in 1843 and some settlers were apparently then in residence. Families well known in the area would include the names of Close, Harvey, Blanchett, Flower, Withers, Westley, Packer, page 20Brown and Humphreys. Stephen Close and his wife arrived in Nelson by the "Mary Ann" in 1842.

A school for Happy Valley was suggested early in 1871 when it was stated that there were 16 families and 49 children in Happy Valley, many of whom were unable to attend the Hillside School on account of its distance. A site was chosen on Mr. Close's land and a school building was erected and, although not finished, was opened for classes in April, 1872. The teacher worked five days a week teaching from 9 o'clock to noon at Happy Valley and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Hillside.

St. John's Church

St. John's Church (the church with a chimney) is situated prominently at the road junction. Built on land given by Hugh Martin, it was consecrated in 1888. The vestry was equipped with bedding and washing facilities, and it was one of the few churches in the country with a chimney. It was usual for the minister after taking an evening service to camp there for the night and then proceed to Cable Bay and Delaware Bay.

Wakapuaka Native Reserve

A mile or so along the Cable Bay road from Hira can be seen the lines of boundary fences which still follow the original survey. This line extends from The Glen right across the hills to the Whangamoa River and all the land to the north of it was reserved for the Maori people. The eastern boundary follows the Whangamoa River from this line right to the sea coast. This survey was not accomplished without some opposition. The Happy Valley locality was tapu to the Maori people and the Ngatiawa chief, Paremata, strenuously opposed the surveying and occupation of the district by the pakehas. Paremata had apparently feared that his people would lose all their land. In July, 1843, a house belonging to a man named Coburn was torn down by the Maori people apparently in the belief that it was on their land. When Governor Fitzroy visited Nelson in February, 1844, he met the Maori chiefs from Wakapuaka and Golden Bay and they apparently had a fairly satisfactory interview. The Governor assured them that they would not be deprived of their pas and cultivations, nor of land not legally sold. He was a little disconcerted when Paremata announced that the Waimea had not been fairly sold, but he assured the chief that Spain would soon settle the Nelson claims.

In January 1845 Paremata and a few of his followers visited all the settlers in the Happy Valley and informed them that they must quit the land immediately or that the natives would destroy their homes and make kai (food) of the inhabitants. Meanwhile the survey was held up but after some days of discord and damage about one hundred volunteers rode out from Nelson to give support to the surveyors. Meanwhile the Church of England clergymen, Messrs. Reay and Butt, had gone out and prevailed upon the chief to change page 21his attitude. No further difficulties were put in the way of the surveyors but Paremata took the move so badly that, when the settlers moved into the recently surveyed land, he and his followers left for the North Island. The Maoris would not live in this tapu district and did not want the pakehas to settle there either.

Actually Paremata was an interesting character we seldom hear of. He was one of the local chiefs and closely related to Huria Matenga. He accompanied Te Puoho on an expedition down the West Coast to Otago and to what is now known as Southland. Te Puoho was killed and Paremata was taken prisoner. Later he was restored to his people at Wakapuaka. Paremata blamed some of his people for being the indirect cause of Te Puoho's death and tried to drive some of his tribe away from Wakapuaka. One of his tribesmen fired at Paremata but he was not seriously hurt and lived for many years afterwards, and died at Moutoa near the present town of Foxton.

J. D. Peart states, 'Te Puoho and Paremata te Wahapiro were the outstanding men of the Ngatitama tribe, and it is right that their existence should not be forgotten by Nelson people, partly owing to their feats of prowess on the battlefield, but more particularly on account of their close relationship to Huria Matenga, whose name will go down honoured by generations of Nelsonians yet to be. There are numerous descendants of Paremata living at Porirua and Wellington, but Julia Martin was the last of the line who sprang from Te Puoho.'

The Whangamoa – Rai Valley Road

The hill-girt early settlement at Nelson did not provide sufficient land for the settlers and soon explorers were setting out to west, south and east. Even when good grazing land was discovered in the Wairau (Marlborough) the ranges to the east of Nelson formed a somewhat formidable barrier.

As early as November 1842 J. S. Cotterell, in his explorations to the south, found the Wairau Pass (Tophouse) and this was the only overland route for some years.

Naturally attempts were made to find a shorter more direct route and in March 1843 a party explored the ranges near Brightwater by following up the headwaters of the Lee Valley.

It would appear that the early settlers knew of an old Maori track over the Maungatapu to the Pelorus valley and after several attempts, extending over a year or so, a party reached the mouth of the Pelorus River by this route in January 1844. This still did not solve the matter of access to the Wairau Valley and further explorations were carried out from time to time.

In 1846 and 1847 several parties tried exploring routes east from the Waimea Plains by way of the headwaters of the Wairoa River and Ward's Pass. This was apparently regarded as too steep for a vehicle road.

page 22

By this time the Wairau land was being taken up for sheep runs and the provision of a good overland route was important. The alternative route available was either the inland trip by way of Top-house or a sea journey round the Sounds and Cook Strait.

In November 1849 John Tinline and party explored a possible route ever the high hill from Whangamoa to the Pelorus River by way of the Tinline Valley. Exploration for possible routes was no easy matter as in most places the ranges of hills were heavily clad in native forest and visibility was limited. Tinline's proposed route did not appear tc offer any advantages over known routes and so late in 1851 it was decided to proceed with a survey and lay off a road over the Maungatapu. This was carried out but it would appear that this was never more than a pack-track in considerable use at the time of the Wakamarina gold 'rush' in 1864.

By then it was possible for wheeled vehicles to get overland by the Tophouse route and this remained the only 'road' to the Wairau for some years. No doubt exploring parties still hoped that they would find an easier route.

It was not, however, until the summer of 1870–71 that the existence of a suitable route by way of the Whangamoa Saddle, Collins Valley, and the Rai Saddle had been proved. A. S. Collyns and T. Mackay forced their way through this bush country from Wakapuaka to the Pelorus River and returned by way of the Maungatapu track. A party headed by the Superintendent of Marlborough, A. P. Seymour, tramped through in January 1871, reported favourably on the route and even granted A. S. Collyns £100 from the Provincial chest and authorised him to make a track from the Pelorus bridge as far as the money would allow. With the help of W. Wastney and other members of the Suburban North Road Board, of which he was chairman, Collyns also laid out a good track from Wakapuaka to the top of the Rai Saddle which was afterwards improved by Government surveyors.

Two of the first travellers between Blenheim and Nelson on this route were the Bishop of Nelson, Bishop Suter, and Sir James Hector, a professor of mineralogy, in June 1877. Only slow progress was made in the formation of a road and it was not until 1885 that wheeled vehicles were able to negotiate the route. One of the first users was William Pickering of Havelock who drove a passenger coach between Blenheim and Nelson in April 1885 and pioneered a regular service on the new road. Conditions were difficult and for a start it was a weekly service but when a subsidy was granted for a mail service Clark and Pickering commenced a bi-weekly service.

In 1887 Newman Brothers started a coach service on the Nelson to Blenheim road and when they later secured the mail contract Pickering withdrew and concentrated on the Havelock to Blenheim service. Soon Newman's service was maintaining a four-horse coach service thrice weekly each way which settled down to a regular routine, the coach leaving at 7 a.m. each morning.

From Blenheim there were five stages with changes of horses at Okaramio, Nelson side of Canvastown, Halfway House page 23(Collins Valley), Nelson side of Whangamoa Saddle. At the changing stables at the foot of the Whangamoa two separate teams were kept: the team used for the haul over the Saddle was composed of a strong heavier type of horse, while the team used to and from Nelson city was made up of light stylish horses picked as a show team. People used to line Trafalgar Street to see the coach come in precisely at 6 o'clock. Drivers who could not maintain the schedule did not last long in the job.

When heavy wagons were transporting timber over the hills from the Rai Valley-Pelorus area to Nelson as many as eighteen were in use at one time and ruts, axle deep, created a problem in road maintenance. For some time after cars came into use travellers were taken by stage coach over the hills and then transferred to service cars for the easier part of the journey to Blenheim.

Maori Church

In 1859 when Bishop Hobhouse arrived in Nelson there were some 46 Maoris living at the Wakapuaka Pa in Happy Valley. In 1862 the Bishop reported that a neat little chapel was in the course of construction.

During the year various items in the Examiner newspaper gave reports on the progress of the building. Two sailors were drowned near the Wakapuaka Pa and the Maori people recovered their bodies. One correspondent to the paper stated that, "This incident shows up the character of the Maori and we heartily concur in thinking that the kindness of the Waka natives should be recognised." A guinea was enclosed as a contribution to the Maori chapel. In November, 1862, a further testimonial about this incident stated that "the natives are erecting a small chapel at the pa. It is not yet finished and their funds are exhausted." Subscriptions were asked for. About three weeks later it was announced that the sum of £97 was required. "Some subscriptions are:—

  • Commissioner of Native Reserves, £20.
  • Nelson Diocesan Synod, £10.
  • Private Donations, £3.
  • Native Donations, £12. The natives have cut all the timber gratuitously."

Unfortunately this building was never completed. In the Evening Mail in April 1869, a correspondent stated, "It is now some years since a church was built by the Maoris of Happy Valley with the understanding that the windows and doors were to be provided by the Government. This has not yet been done …." A plea "from the Children of the Pa now living in Happy Valley," was made asking that the eyes and mouth for their church be supplied.

After some years the chapel ceased to be used either because the congregation had moved or had simply lost interest. Fourteen years after it was built it was moved to the Pa near Delaware Bay, page 24re built, re-opened as St. Barnabas' Church, and used by the congregation there for many years. Hemi Matenga was himself a prominent churchman serving on the Nelson Diocesan Synod and in other capacities.

The point which now interests our historians is just where the early church was situated or where a Maori Pa existed in Happy Valley. There is no evidence now available of any Maori settlement and as the area from the boundary of the Native Reserve down the valley was heavily forested it seems unlikely that it was anywhere in the narrow part of the valley but probably nearer the open flats towards Bishop's Peninsula.

Cable and Delaware Bays

Prior to the establishment of the Wakapuaka Cable Station Cable Bay was known as Schroder's Mistake and such a name immediately suggests that there must be a story behind it. There is. When survey parties set out for the Wairau (Marlborough) in April 1843 they sailed in two boats which struck heavy gales. Taking obvious precautions they sought the shelter of Pepin Island, one boat going into the Maori Pa side while the other ran into the bay later known as Cable Bay. Schroder, a merchant of Nelson, was the owner of the larger craft. Some difference of opinion developed over the lifting of the anchor and the surveyor, J. W. Barnicoat, suggested that the boat could be lifted over the sand bar. Schroder gave up the job and all the surveyors proceeded by Cotterell's cutter to the Wairau.

As early as 1870 the New Zealand Government was actively interested in a proposal to connect this country with the outside world by means of an ocean cable. By 1872 Australia had such a link and New Zealand messages were sent to Australia by sea, either to Sydney or Melbourne, and cabled from there. Through communication from Australia to England took eight days as the telegraph lines across Australia went by way of South Australia where there was a gap of 150 miles. The proposal was to land the Australia-New Zealand cable at Cape Farewell as most of the telegraph business was with the South Island and this was the nearest point.

In 1876 the Eastern Extension Cable Company laid the cable from La Perouse, Sydney, to Wakapuaka, taking only 11 days. The new service came into use on February 21, 1876 (see cover).

There were three separate organisations and staffs involved:—

1.The Eastern Extension Cable Company.
2.The Government Telegraph Office.
3.The Press Association.

Messages arrived in code and the Press agent divided the news into grades A., B. or C. and the messages, so graded, were returned page 25to the Telegraph Office Staff with instructions as to their overland destinations. All land lines were operated by Morse key. Telegraph connection with the North Island was by way of the Cook Strait cable from White's Bay in Marlborough. A further connecting link between the two islands came into use early in 1880 by a new direct cable from Wakapuaka to Wanganui. A good deal of traffic was diverted to this route but the distance, 109 nautical miles, led to some technical shortcomings and the line was abandoned in 1925.

A retired Telegraph Department employee remembered the old Wakapuaka Cable Station with the call sign Wak, commonly known as "Waka," when it was one of the important links in the communications channels. He said that the cable messages all came off on a tape by a dot and dash system while messages sent overseas were tapped out by two keys. Many local lads joined the Cable Company as cadets and, when trained, were sent to Singapore, Hong Kong, or other overseas stations.

In 1901 cables by way of the Pacific from Vancouver connected New Zealand with the world by a new route, the New Zealand terminus being at Doubtless Bay in Northland, the cable later being extended to Auckland. This new link gradually superseded the Wakapuaka to Sydney cable. In 1909 the Telegraph Department staff and Press agent were moved and the telegraph lines went directly to the Wellington and Nelson telegraph offices, and some of the local staff were transferred to North Auckland. When fire gutted some of the buildings they were not replaced and in 1917 the terminal was moved to Wellington. Some of the buildings were sold and moved, one of the large buildings remaining was, for a time, used as a guest house for holidaymakers. At that time there was a Cable Bay Post Office in operation.

Foundations of old buildings, a sealed tennis court, and a few other relics are now the only reminders of the existence of the cable station.

One other interesting item is the fact that during the Russian invasion scare in 1885 a naval boat was sent to the neighbourhood of the cable station as a precautionary measure.

When the cable station was in operation the road, or track, used by vehicles did not go round on the side-cuttings on the hillside where the present road is. The Delaware road was followed as far as Bishop's Peninsula then crossed the mudflat and followed round the foot of the hill near high water level.

Cable Bay Road

As an employment measure in the slump of the 1880's men were employed on road works under which scheme work was undertaken to build a road leading to Cable Bay. In 1888 the late Jonathan Brough was in charge and fortunately records which he kept have page 26been preserved. The work was carried out on the co-operative contract system organised in such a way that married men could earn up to 4s 6d per day and single men 3s 6d per day. While on this project word was sent to Brough to pick out some of the most deserving men to paint the Kohatu bridge. Brough's reply was to the effect that all of the men were deserving and that he was unable to do the choosing. The result was that he was sacked. The men came into Nelson and protested at his dismissal but nothing could be done. It was seven years before Brough was reinstated to Government works.

Maori Camp Site

Recent excavations carried out at the old Maori Camp site at Cable Bay have revealed various stages of Maori occupation in this part of the country and that this site was a very early camping place.

Pepin Island

Pepin Island was named by Dumont D'Urville when he visited this region in 1827. This was part of the Native Reserve later owned by the Matengas.

Bishop's Peninsula

Bishop's Peninsula, about 20 acres, is still a Maori reserve, and its native bush and scrub cover have been well preserved. In the early 1880's Bishop Suter leased it thus creating a private reserve against the ravages of cattle and fire. Historically one of its interests is the fact that there is a Maori defensive trench across the distal peninsula.

In the days of horse-drawn traffic a popular day's outing from Nelson was a carriage drive to Cable Bay or the Maori Pa at Delaware Bay, the hire being thirty shillings.

Maori Pa

Hemi and Huria Matenga became the owners of the land which has normally been referred to as the Maori Pa. It would appear that North Island tribes occupied this land prior to invasion by Te Rauparaha's followers about 1828 or 1830. The invading Ngatitoa dragged their canoes overland from Elaine Bay to Croisille's Harbour and attacked the Pa from the sea. The Ngatiapa folk residing in the area were massacred at the end of the long sandspit, Tuarawhati peninsula, near where the Maori cemetery is situated and human bones are still to be found where the massacre took place. It was after this fight that the Ngatitama tribe occupied the area, and some who had settled in Golden Bay, later moved back to Wakapuaka.

A son of Te Puoho, the great fighting chief, Wi Katene Te Puoho, was the head man over this warlike clan. He was also known as E. page 27Manu. A daughter of his was Huria, later Julia Matenga, wife of Hemi Matenga, who took the English names of Julia and James Martin. It can be fairly claimed that Huria was chieftainess of high rank. Her husband, Hemi Matenga and his brother, Wi Parata Kakakura, at one time a Maori Minister, were the sons of a famous Maori chieftainess who married one of the early whalers at Kapiti. Hemi was educated at the Native College in Auckland under Bishop Selwyn. Hemi and Huria had no children of their own but cared for many children of others.

Most of the other Maori families left the district and Huria and Hemi had control of the entire Native Reserve. During his lifetime Hemi Matenga was a well known figure in the Nelson district. He largely adopted European ways and erected substantial buildings on his land. After his death the property was run for many years as the Hemi Matenga Estate and it is only in recent years that it has bean cut up into a number of farms.

Between the homestead site and the coast there is a narrow strip of land, known as Nuku Nuku, which is still the property of the Maori people. Early maps simply showed this as 'Maori Paddock'. This would appear to be anything from 12 to 20 acres in extent and it must be apparent that it should be maintained as a reserve. No doubt any suggestion of a transfer of this land would be a long drawn out procedure as several generations of descendants from the original owners would all have to agree before any transfer could be made.

The whole of the Tuarawhati Peninsula is now privately owned including the old cemetery but it must be apparent that at least some of this area should be preserved for historical reasons.

Maori Cemetery

At the end of the long sandspit Tuarawhati is the old Maori cemetery. Substantial gravestones have been erected over the graves of Julia and Hemi Matenga. Julia died in 1909 and Hemi in 1912. A news report at the time of Hemi's death stated that it was the biggest tangi ever held in the Nelson district.

Not all the graves in the small cemetery are marked but one deserves some comment. The whaler Arthur Elmslie married by Maori custom Nga Bouka, a chieftainess of the Ngatikoata tribe, later being married British-style by a missionary, possibly Rev. Samuel Ironside. They had several children but none lived to maturity. Early in 1847 Elmslie paid a visit to England and during his absence his wife died and was buried at Wakapuaka.

Wreck of the "Delaware"

Julia Martin (Huria Matenga) is sometimes referred to as 'New Zealand's Grace Darling' on account of her part in helping to save the crew of the American built brigantine, "Delaware," in September 1863. After leaving Nelson she ran ashore at the foot of high cliffs north of the Maori settlement and was soon a total wreck. Julia was page 28then a strong young woman of about twenty years of age and she took a leading part in rescuing the men from the doomed vessel. Only one life was lost.

The name of Delaware Bay has been used for the whole coastal area ever since.

Early Local Development

In 1856 plans were under way to build a public school at Hillside under the Nelson Education Act of that year. Land was given for the purpose by the Mackay-Jollie Trust and the schoolroom was opened in January 1857. Originally the Suburban North Committee of Education controlled both the Clifton Terrace and Hillside schools and when a school was started at Happy Valley all were controlled by one representative committee. As Hillside was the most central place the committee meetings took place there.

Suburban North Committee of Education

When arrangements were being made to erect the Hillside School in 1856 the committee consisted of the following people:—

J. Hodgson, chairman, Wells, Wastney, W. C. Hodgson, Thompson, Mackay and Dodson.

The following year the committee was:—

  • Arthur Collyns.
  • Thomas Dodson.
  • Thomas Doughty.
  • William Dyson.
  • John Humphrey.
  • James Mackay.
  • Conrad H. Manssen.
  • William Wells.
  • Edmund Wastney, chairman.

Suburban North Road Board

In general with many of the country districts Suburban North met the local needs by means of a Road Board and received a limited amount of funds for the purpose. It was normal practice to make an annual grant for general purposes (£150 in 1874) while special grants were allocated for new works.

The Suburban North Road Board consisted of the following members in 1859:—

  • Robert Pollock.
  • Arthur Collyns.
  • Thomas Dodson.
  • William Dyson.
  • John Humphrey.
  • James Mackay.
  • Joseph Pierson.
  • William Wells.

Many roads were built under the supervision of the local Road Board and, from time to time, tenders were advertised in the "Examiner." In November 1862 one such advertisement read:—

"Tenders called for cutting a road and forming a road, about 12 chains in length, between Thackwood and Martin's Hill in the above district. Plans and specifications at Black Horse or at the house of the Chairman of the Board. R. Pollock."

page 29

Farming Development

At this point it might be well to consider the important part played by working farmers in developing the area. A news item in March 1849 stated, 'Harvest Home. The small farmers and cottiers in the district of Wakapuaka, having safely got in the whole of their crops, met together on Tuesday last, at the house of Mr. Attwood, near the Black Bull public house, Suburban North, to celebrate this happy event. A substantial dinner was provided of which a large number partook, embracing nearly every family in the neighbourhood…..'

Dairying was carried on from quite early days and a ready market was found for salted butter during the goldfield era. Later, when W. R. May set up a dairy factory at Richmond a local creamery was set up to cater for the supply to the butter factory. Whitwell's at Woodvale Farm, were the first people to go in for home separation, driving their separator with a steam engine. As the town population increased milk walks, later known as milk runs, became the usual outlet to dispose of a great deal of the milk produced. This meant long hours, getting the cows milked before daylight and then transporting the milk into town. The full cans were taken round the streets and the milk was measured out with a dipper into whatever containers the householders kept for the purpose.

It is now over thirty years since pasteurised milk came into use and many people have forgotten, or may not even have known, the days when raw milk was sold direct to the consumer.

In a short review of this kind it is not possible to trace all the settlers and all the changes of ownership, which have taken place since, therefore I have concentrated on the earliest settlers and overall developments. However, it will provide a basis for future historians. Every endeavour has been made to be accurate, but the v/riter would welcome further information or corrections which readers can supply

P.S.: While this article is in print more information has already come to hand and this will be the basis of a future article.


Jubilee History of Nelson; Judge Lowther Broad, 18392. Colonisl Office, 205 pages.

Nelson; Ruth M. Allan, 1965. A.H. & A.W. Reed, 458 pages.

Nelson Narrative; H. F. Ault, 1958. Diocese of Nelson, 384 pages.

Nelson Province 1642–1842; A. N. Field, 1942. A. G. Belts & Son, 144 pages.

Old Tasman Bay; J. D. Peart, 1937. R. Lucas & Sons Ltd, 143 pages.

Newspapers: Examiner, Mail, Colonist.

Libraries: Turnbull, Nelson Public Library, Nelson Provincial Museum—Lyall Hodson M/S; map per Mr. J. R. Eyles.

Grateful acknowledgments are made to many Nelsonians and others for useful information and helpful criticism.