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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, September 1977

Opening of Waimea West

Opening of Waimea West

[The first priority was the surveying of the land, and as soon as the town sites were marked off attention was turned to the "rural" land near Nelson. Tuckett was the chief surveyor for the colony, but most of the country work was done by contract. J. W. Barnicoat and T. J. Thompson had the contract for Waimea East. 12,000 acres (4800 ha), and J. S. Cottrell agreed to survey 8,000 acres (3200 ha) at Waimea West, Conditions were that 2,000 acres (800 ha) a month were to be completed with sections marked off with stakes. The renumeration was to be a shilling an acre (25 cents a ha approx.—Ed.]

As there were no roads at this time the principal means of access to Waimea West was by boat up the Waimea River which entered Nelson Haven much further to the east than it does now, the Wairoa. Wai-iti and the Waimea were all broader and more navigable in those days. Both parties of surveyors left Nelson on the second of March 1842, and travelled by boat some miles up the Waimea River to "Cottrell's Landing" which seems to have been situated on the banks of the Waimea somewhere about the present boat sheds at Pearl Creek (which was named after the boat Pearl which used to carry cargo and Waimea grain). Barnicoat and Thompson had considerable difficulty in getting their gear across two miles of swamp to dry land. Cottrell established his head-page 21quartersat Pennsylvania Station, there was less swamp in his area, but more bush, however he was enthusiastic about the district, and did not complain of undue hardships. While burning off the fern he uncovered the site of a pa on a tributary of the Wai-iti River, which the Maoris told him had been sacked by Te Rauparaha's men about ten years previously. By the sixteenth of July Cottrell's survey of 8,350 acres (3340 Ha) was completed, the area was divided into 500 blocks which were each divided into ten 50 acre (20 Ha) sections. Roads were constructed and drains dug along them by labourers who had been brought out by the company for this work. Ditches were also dug around sections for boundaries, and the earth thrown up served as a line for the planting of hedges of hawthorn, gorse and barberry. These provided cheap and effective boundary fences of a permanent nature, particularly the hawthorn; some hedges are still growing today.

[Cottrell undertook the survey of Waimea South in October 1842, and in the same month he and his partner, H. W. Burt, began a regular boat service between Nelson and their landing. The boat left Nelson on Mondays and Saturdays four hours before high water, returning the same day, the fare was three shillings (30 cents) each way. From the "Landing Place Hovel" as it was unkindly called, goods were delivered by bullock cart to any part of the Plain. The Examiner tells us that at that time Cottrell also had a store on his Pennsylvania Station, and "could supply residents with necessities on the lowest terms". The store was not a great success as Cottrell was often away surveying or exploring—in December 1842 he discovered the pass to the Wairau (Tophouse) and explored the Wairau Valley. On a later expedition he discovered Lake Rotoiti, but despaired of finding good farm land to the south-west. He was one of the victims of the Wairau Affray the following year. His work is commemorated by a plaque near Tophouse on Highway 63, and by Cottrell Peak in the Lakes National Park. –Ed.]