Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 1981
Before describing individual runs it is necessary to consider the tenure under which the first settlers held their land and the regulations governing depasturing licences to graze sheep, cattle and horses on the waste lands of the New Zealand Company's Nelson Settlement. It must he remembered that Marlborough was under the New Zealand Company's Charter until the collapse of that Company; it was then taken over by the Governor, Sir George Grey until the Nelson Provincial Government was set up in 1853. It became a separate province in 1859.
The first depasturage licences were dated drom 1st January, 1849, to run until 30th June, 1850, as it was thought the New Zealand Government would be taking over at that date. As the change over was not made by then, fresh licences were issued for the period 1st January, 1850, to 30th June, 1851, so overlapping the earlier licences by six months. Insufficient evidence is available to show how the licences were issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands between the middle of 1851 and the beginning of 1854 – presumably on a year to year basis. At the beginning of 1854 the number of licences issued from Nelson for the Marlborough area totalled forty-eight and we have a description of the run boundaries and a list of the licensees. These 1854 licences were for a period of fourteen years dated from 1st January, 1854, to the beginning of 1868. Each had a consecutive number and it is these numbers that 1 intend to use for each run. Just how many licences had been issued in 1849 is not clear, but it would appear to be about twenty, a further twelve had been added by the middle of 1850. (A useful source of information on the issuing of depasturage licences is Nelson A History of Early Settlement by Ruth Allan).
The first Crown Grants for sections of land for closer settlement, as well as those for securing homestead sites on sheep runs were made in the autumn of 1851. The Land Regulation Ordinance Act of 1841 made provision for the establishment of Deeds Registry Offices in New Zealand, while in 1842 a Conveyancing Ordinance was passed to make provision for the change of ownership of real property. It appears strange that it was ten years before this became effective. (Those wishing to learn more about this subject could start with An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand ed. A. H. McLintock, 1966 Vol. 2 page 877, "Law of Real").
The taking up of the early runs is shrouded in a certain amount of conjecture. In some parts all one can do is make a calculated estimate to supplement what is in the official records. This accounts for some discrepancies in other writings on the subject. Many people have only brushed over the subject with a few names and places but this is an attempt to bring the history of each run into a better focus.
It is now generally agreed that the first sheep to be driven from the Nelson area to the top of the Wairau, then called Top House, were owned by Nathaniel George Morse and Dr John Henry Cooper who squatted there with page 8 page 9their flock late in 1846. The partnership did not last, Morse pulling out to found another run, No. 3, at Wantwood, in the following year.
The numbering of the runs used in this and succeeding articles are those used by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Nelson, in 1854, as they are in a good geographical sequence. Starting from Tophouse the numbering goes down the Wairau Valley to the sea, along the East Coast to Clarence River, then up the right hand side of the Awatere Valley to Barefells and down the left side to Dumgree, followed by runs in the Waihopai Valley from Tyntesfield to Te Arowhenua.
The 1854 licences were first issued in this area for a period of fourteen years. When they expired in 1868 they were, in most cases, replaced with a fourteen year lease giving the occupier a better tenure with less restrictions, though other legislation made it more difficult to freehold the land.