New Zealand Company settlers arrive in Nelson

1 February 1842

Painting of Nelson, 1841 (Alexander Turnbull Library, C-025-015)

The Fifeshire arrived in Nelson with immigrants for the New Zealand Company’s first settlement in the South Island.

The company had been trying to purchase land in the area since 1839. Desire became necessity when news reached Wellington that several immigrant ships were on their way from England.

In October 1841, Captain Arthur Wakefield led a party which investigated possible sites at Riwaka, Moutere, Motueka and Waimea before choosing the Maitai River flats, which bordered Te Whakatū (Nelson Haven).

The site had no permanent Māori residents but its resources were harvested seasonally by several iwi. When the town of Nelson was surveyed, 100 of the 1100 one-acre sections were set aside for Māori. No country sections were reserved for Māori, and much of the urban land was later alienated by the Crown.

After several thousand settlers arrived in Nelson within a few months, the need to occupy land beyond the Waimea Plains became clear. As a result, in 1843 Nelson officials attempted to enforce a dubious New Zealand Company claim to land in the Wairau Valley. The outcome was disastrous (see 17 June).