Early Pastoralism in Marlborough
Marlborough's earliest pastoral history was one of initial squatter land occupation, battling the twin scourges of rabbits and sheep scab, and eventually, compulsory division of the huge sheep runs by the Crown.
Nathaniel Morse and Dr John Cooper were the first Europeans to bring sheep into the Wairau Valley in 1846. In the same year, Frederick Weld with cousins Charles Clifford , William Vavasour and friend Henry Petrie, leased what was to become the Flaxbourne Estate. Clifford wrote: "I went to him (Te Puaha, a Māori chief), was very kindly received, and soon agreed upon a lease of all the land from the Vernon Bluffs down the East Coast to Kekerengu for £24/annum."1
In August 1847 they drove 3000 sheep purchased from Australia, from Port Underwood to Flaxbourne: "Crossed the Bluff River with sheep. Had to throw them all into the water, a day and a half's hard work," wrote Weld in his diary.2
Soon flocks of sheep were being driven over Tophouse from Nelson. Initially, the majority of Marlborough's first pastoralists were squatters, as the New Zealand Company had no legal titles to grant land ownership.3 Eventually the land was bought by Sir George Grey4 and the Company surveyed and allotted 34,219 acres for 14 year leases, with the Crown able to take over the leases at any time.5
A feud broke out between two groups, known as the Original Resident Land Purchasers and the ‘stock owners'. Led by Dr David Monro, the land purchasers argued they had a ‘prior moral right' to exclusive rights to additional pasturage licences, which would have given them use of an additional 196,000 acres of Wairau and Awatere land.6
By 1853, there were more than 57 large sheep stations covering more than one million acres.7
Marlborough's historic large sheep stations included:
Click image to enlarge
Ugbrooke Station: 13,000 acres in the Awatere Valley running 11,000 sheep and growing crops, originally acquired by Henry Redwood, then William Clifford, then bought by H.D. Vavasour in 1897.9
Molesworth: consisted of Molesworth, Tarndale, St Helen's and The Dillon and was taken over by the Crown in 1938 after rabbits, heavy snows and the decreasing value of wool took its toll.11
Rabbits and sheep scab drove some farmers off the land. By 1864, hillsides were alive with rabbits which devastated pastures. Rabbits were public enemy number one, with nine million rabbit skins exported in 1882. Sheep scab, a highly infectious disease caused by a parasitic insect, causes wool to fall off sheep and lowers stock condition. Farmers battled the disease for nearly 60 years, with Marlborough being the last region to be declared ‘clean' in 1892.12
By the turn of the 20th Century, all of the best, most accessible land was held in large estates which became a problem for the Government as population rose - the problem was acute in Marlborough.13 [In 1903, the total number of sheep in the district was about 826,500, of which 760,000 run in the Sounds country, and 174,000 in the southern district around Kaikoura. The total export of wool for 1903 was12,700 bales].14
In 1894, a Lands for Settlement Act was passed by Parliament which allowed the Crown to compulsorily take estates and award compensation. One of the Dominion's most important land law cases at the time concerned Weld and Clifford's historic 46,600 acre Flaxbourne Estate. Within four years, about 300 people lived there.15
Between 1899 and 1915, 22 Marlborough estates covering a total of 224,090 acres were acquired by the Government and divided into 550 properties.16
2009 (updated 2022)
Sources used in this story
- MacDonald, C.A. (1933) Pages from the past: some chapters in the history of Marlborough. Blenheim, N.Z.: H. Duckworth (E.H. Penny and Co). pp. 196-197
- Provincial Centennial Supplement 1859-1959. (1959, November 1) The Marlborough Express, 12
- Provincial Centennial Supplement, 12
- McIntosh, A.D. (Ed.) (1940) Marlborough a provincial history. Blenheim, N.Z.: Marlborough Provincial Historical Committee, p. 91.
- MacDonald, p. 202
- MacDonald, pp. 95-96
- Provincial Centennial Supplement, 12
- The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations. V.5 Nelson, Marlborough and Westland provincial districts. (1897-1908) Wellington, N.Z.: Cycyclopedia Co. , p. 360
- The Cyclopedia, p. 359-360
- The Cyclopedia, p. 357
- Provincial Centennial Supplement, 17
- Provincial Centennial Supplement,17-18
- McIntosh, p. 289
- Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Nelson Marlborough, Retreived from NZETC: http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc05Cycl-t1-body1-d2-d1.html
- McIntosh, pp. 290-291
- McIntosh, p. 291
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Further sources - Early Pastoralism in Marlborough
- The Awatere Valley today and yesterday (1966) Seddon, N.Z.: Awatere Women's Division of Federated Farmers.
- Buick, T.L. (1900, 1976) Old Marlborough. Palmerston North, NZ: Hart and Keeling
- Broad, H. & Suistead, R. (2013) Molesworth. Stories from New Zealand's largest high country station. Nelson, N.Z. : Craig Potton Publishing
- Chisholm, M. M. (1960) Cattle on Molesworth: The production and management of beef cattle on Molesworth for the store market. Christchurch, N.Z. : Printed by Simpson & Williams. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/154079859
- Collins, J.F. (1948) The Starborough Estate. Thesis (M.A). Christchurch, N.Z.: Canterbury University College
- The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations. V.5 Nelson, Marlborough and Westland provincial districts. (1897-1908) Wellington, N.Z.: Cyclopedia Co. Wellington volume
- Drummond, G. (1947) A holiday on horseback: the diary of a tour from Blenheim to Hanmer: Printed at the Marlborough Express Office.
- Hale, A.M. (1955) The Golden Jubilee of the Flaxbourne settlement, 1905-1955: Blenheim, N.Z.:Flaxbourne Settlers Association.
- Hebberd E. (Ed.) (1999) Stories of the Awatere 1899-1999. Seddon NZ: Seddon and District Centennial Committee.
- Johnson, R.W.M. (1967) High country development on Molesworth. Lincoln, N.Z.: Lincoln College, Agricultural Economics Research Unit.
- Kennington, A.L. (1978) The Awatere; A district and its people. Blenheim, N.Z.: Marlborough County Council.
- Kennington, A.L.(1972, October) Flaxbourne-Kekerengu: Field day. Blenheim, N.Z.: Marlborough Historical Society.
- Loftus, H.J. (1997) The Tetley affair or Colonial dreams and nightmares: being an account of the career of Joseph Dresser Tetley, M.L.C. Waikanae NZ: Heritage Press.
- McCaskill, L.W. (1969) Molesworth. Wellington, NZ.: A.H and A.W. Reed
- MacDonald, C.A. (1933) Pages from the past: some chapters in the history of Marlborough. Blenheim, N.Z.: H. Duckworth (E.H. Penny and Co).
- McIntosh, A.D. (Ed.) (1940) Marlborough a provincial history. Blenheim, N.Z.: Marlborough Provincial Historical Committee.
- Molesworth management plan (1987). [Wellington, N.Z.] : Land Corporation Limited
- Moore, L.B. (1976) The changing vegetation of Molesworth Station, New Zealand, 1944 to 1971. Wellington, N.Z. : New Zealand Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research
- Murphy, D. I.(1986) Molesworth, strategy plan Blenheim, N.Z.:Department of Lands and Survey.
- North, M. (2004)Wairau ecological region, Blenheim, Grassmere, Flaxbourne, Wither Hills. survey report for the protected natural areas programme.Wellington, N.Z.:Department of Conservation.
- Resource management strategy for Molesworth Station: 1992-1997 Management Plan. (1993) Wellington [N.Z.] : Office of Crown Lands
- Stacey, F. (1996) Tales of a tussock jumper. Blenheim: F. Stacey.
- Stevens, E. J. (1973) Distribution of sweet brier, broom and ragwort on Molesworth Station.Canterbury, N.Z., Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute
- Stronach, B. (1953) Musterer on Molesworth Christchurch, N.Z.: Whitcombe and Tombs
- Wheeler, C. (1968) Historic sheep stations of the South Island. Auckland, NZ: Reed
- Wheeler, C. (1971) Historic sheep stations of the South Island: a second series. Wellington, N.Z. : Reed
- Petre, C.C. (1998) The flight of the phoenix: a story of Flaxbourne Station. Seddon, NZ.: C. Petre
- The Richmond Brook settlement and part of Starborough settlement, Marlborough, New Zealand: particulars, terms, and conditions of disposal and occupation of 5,669 acres, Richmond Brook settlement, 1,414 acres, Starborough settlement, and 116 sections (33 acres) in the town of Seddon, open on Friday, 18th August, 1899 with maps, from surveys made by M. Carkeek, A Simpson, and W Wilson. (1899) Wellington [NZ]: Government Printer Wellington, [N.Z.] : Govt. Printer.
- The Starborough settlement, Marlborough, New Zealand; particulars, terms, and conditions of disposal and occupation of 33, 621 acres, open on Monday, 13th March, 1899 with map from surveys made by M. Carkeek, A. Simpson, and Wilson; and illustrations from Photographs by W. F. Burgess. (1899) Wellington [NZ]: Government Printer.
- Taylor, J. (2000) Flaxbourne: its people and their stories: a collection of stories contributed by people with connections to the Flaxbourne District. Ward, NZ: Flaxbourne Settlers Association.
- Wright, M. (2009) Old South: life and times in nineteenth-century Mainland. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin., pp.142-162
- Denton, R.T. (1981) Early sheep runs of Marlborough . Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies 1(1), pp.7-12
- Denton, R.T. (1984) The early sheep runs of Marlborough (continued) : runs in the Lower Wairau. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies (Incorporated), 1(4), pp.4-9
- Elliot, B. (2008) Seddon : sheep made New Zealand famous. New Zealand Memories, 73, p.51
- McKay, D. (1999, January 11) Travelling through Molesworth. Nelson Mail, p.11
- McLauchlan, G. (1968) Molesworth : a huge station that has become a legend. New Zealand journal of agriculture, 117 (3) p.34-45
- Molesworth Station (1964) New Zealand journal of agriculture,108 (2), p.105
- Taylor, J. (2008) Flaxbourne. New Zealand Memories, 73, p.54-55
- 1899-1949 Souvenir programme, fiftieth anniversary of Starborough and Richmond Brook settlement: menu and toast list for reunion luncheon, Seddon May 18, 1949. Blenheim, May 18, 1949. [Held by Alexander Turnbull Library]
- Clifford, Sir Charles. Papers, 1831-1896. Canterbury Museum.
- Charles Clifford (2007) Retrieved from New Zealand history online:
- Clifford, Sir Charles, Bt. (2009) Retrieved from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. : Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- The Flaxbourne Estate (1905, 28 February) Evening Post, 2
- Frederick Weld (2009) Retrieved from New Zealand history online:
- History of Rangitahi/Molesworth. Retrieved from DOC, March 2022:
- Living the high life (2010) Marlborough Express. Retrieved 11 June 2010, from:
- McAloon, J. (2009) Land ownership - The Liberals and land policy. Retrieved from: Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- Molesworth Station. Retrieved 29 October, 2009 from Department of Conservation
- Peden, R. (2009) Farming in the economy, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- Stringleman, H. & Peden, R. (2009) Sheep farming - The establishment phase. Retrieved from: Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
- Ugbrooke Country Estates:
- Weld, Sir Frederick Aloysius (2009) Retrieved from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966: Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/1966/weld-sir-frederick-aloysius/1