Tasman Ports timeline


The ports of Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere and Golden Bay / Mohua were often the only links to the outside world for these regions in the early days. They were closely linked to the development of new and burgeoning industries.

Amelia Sims

"Amelia Sims,"  Motueka wharf, c 1903. Photo by courtesy of Miss Nina Moffatt, Motueka, from Nelson Historial Society Journal, 2(6) 1973, NZETC
Click image to enlarge

 The ports of Māpua and Motueka
  • Early 1840s:
    Motueka was considered by Captains Moore and Wakefield as a possible site for chief town of Nelson, however it was rejected after Nelson Haven was discovered.
  • 1840s
    Brisk trade in timber and vegetables between Motueka and Nelson; small vessels loaded on beach at river mouth. Motueka estuary shallow and not rated highly for a port. Small jetty, followed by a wharf sufficed for many years.
  • 1856
    Second Motueka wharf, a 2.4 metre wide t-shaped wooden jetty, was built in Doctor's Creek, a couple of kilometres east of town.
  • 1860s
    Roads to Motueka wharf upgraded, a crane bought and moorings repaired.
  • 1882
    Port Motueka management placed in hands of Waimea County Council. New wharf built in 1883. The Ensign newspaper (4/11/1882) describes the Lady Barkly arriving with a full cargo of general merchandise and leaving with part cargo of wool.
  • 1884
    Growing dissatisfaction with condition of Motueka wharf.
  • 1887
    Work begins on new Motueka wharf at a cost of £4000. Wharf is a focus of great activity and interest with almost no overland transport until 1922- almost all supplies and mail left through the  port; passengers and produce leave town the same way.
  • 1901, June
    Nelson Harbour Board take over Port Motueka from Waimea County Council. Not keen on debt and responsibility and transfer to a wharf board.
  • 1902
    Extension to Motueka wharf and more storage space completed. Figures for preceding months showed produce to value of £32,005 passed over wharf; £11,000 of this was export fruit.
  • 1905
    Wharf Board formally constituted as Motueka Harbour Board.
  • By 1907
    Several steamers run services to Motueka from Wellington, Marlborough and Nelson.
  • 1911
    Larger steamers and shoaling of port result in plan to build Port Motueka a mile down coast at the mouth of the Moutere River. New wharf built there at cost of £40,000. Port Motueka served an expanding and prosperous rural community. Main outward trade was fruit, hops and tobacco. Coal came from the West Coast.
  • 1912
    Slight improvements made to Māpua Wharf. Beacons erected in Western entrance. Cool store built for 16,000 cases of apples in 1919.
  • 1917
    Marine Department vests Māpua Wharf in the Motueka Harbour Board. Motueka Board reduces wharfage fees in response to trend for wool, hops and lime to be transported overland. Decision made to erect jetty and landing stage at Moutere Lagoon for use of Motueka at a cost of £200.
  • 1918 onwards
    Motueka Harbour Board takes remit to national Harbour Conference that Government be requested to buy seagoing dredge for hire to smaller harbour boards for necessary works. Remit passed unanimously but Minister of Marine opposed; did nothing for many years. Unclear whether Government complied or not.
  • 1919
    January: Dredging carried out at new harbour. Board most annoyed with comments by Anchor Co manager that new harbour no better than old. They said: "There is no less than an advantage of 6 ft 6 inches in depth of water at the new harbour" 1
    December: Board concerned Motueka area at disadvantage re perishable produce reaching markets due to irregular running of Anchor boats.
  • 1920, Aug-Nov
    Motueka Harbour Board seeks Government assistance to reinstate harbour owing to damage caused by flood in the river. Board considers diverting water from Moutere River and removing stone banks to prevent scouring at times of flood.
  • 1921
    Motueka Wharf made from tōtara found to be ravaged by teredo (a bivalve mollusca). Reconstruction estimated to cost £5000.
  • 1921-22
    Māpua Channel dredged to accommodate larger vessels. Anchor Company vessels specially strengthened so they can lie on bottom at low tide.
  • 1922
    Nelson Harbour Board takes over Mapua Wharf. Channel dredged, marked with beacons, a new wharf built and large apple cool store.
  • 1923
    61,000 cases fruit through Māpua
  • 1931
    355,000 cases fruit through Māpua
  • 1936
    Motueka Harbour Board hired dredge Te Wakatu to deepen berthage at Motueka Wharf. Most income from outward-bound cargoes of fruit, timber and tobacco.
  • 1948
    550,000 cases fruit through Māpua
  • 1964
    Last fruit shipments from Māpua due to trend for most export fruit to be loaded at Nelson rather than transshipped through Wellington; bigger ships take command of export cargoes. Māpua used by pleasure craft, by 1980s wharf a decaying relic.
    Mapua wharfMapua wharf , Tasman District Council
    Click image to enlarge
  • 1973
    Port Motueka handled only 80 tons of cargo and none in the following year.
  • 1976
    Last trading vessels (lime, marble and a little timber) visit Māpua port.
  • 1990s
    Tasman District Council construct $1.4 million groyne to deflect sand from Motueka entrance channel.
  • 1998
    60 year old Motueka Wharf closed to public: deemed structurally unsafe. Talley's Fisheries buy Motueka Wharf from Tasman District Council for $12 with condition wharf is rebuilt at cost of $1.5 million.


Golden Bay / Mohua Ports: Tarakohe, Waitapu, Pūponga, Collingwood
  • 1851
    Coal loaded out of Pākawau wharf. Followed by wool and flax.
  • 1858
    Collingwood, at mouth of Aorere River, declared a Port of Entry with own Harbour Master and Customs officer. Port very busy through gold rush. First wharf built at Collingwood in 1859 and Lady Barkly3 began a service lasting 60 years.
  • 1862
    Gold in decline; saw milling, quartz crushing and gold dredging continue and shipped out of Collingwood.
  • 1863
    Government wharf built at Waitapu on the Tākaka River. Trade mainly in coal, lime and timber. Became a very busy port with vessels ‘jockeying for position at the wharf'4.
  • 1884
    Port Waitapu handed over by Marine Department to Takaka County Council.
  • 1899
    Deep wharf built at Pākawau. By end of 1800s Pākawau shipping out 200 tons of coal a week. Turn of Century Development of coal port at Pūponga with half mile long wharf connected to mines by rail line. Channel dredged to admit 1000-ton colliers.
  • 1908
    Second wharf built at Pākawau by Seaford Coal Company at a depth alongside of 20 feet. Despite confidence, Seaford Company failed. Port Collingwood silting up, private wharves in bad state. Proposal to construct new wharf in deeper water outside lagoon. Squabbles and problems meant new wharf (cost £3,200) was not opened until 1918.
    S.S. TekapuTekapu s.s., port partly obscured by Collingwood wharf, Ca 1890s, Alexander Turnbull Library, 10x8-0500-G http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=13538
    Click image to enlarge
  • 1910
    Output of Pūponga port was 31,000 tons. Pūponga became chief Golden Bay port until coal became difficult to access. Port Tarakohe began with establishment of Golden Bay Cement Company: large wharf built and fitted with conveyors for bulk loading cement ships. One ton of cement shipped out in first year; loaded onto small boats and rowed out to SS Kaitoa. Coal, cement and goods conveyed by many scows and small steamers over the years including the Lady Barkly.
  • 1912
    Tākaka marble used in construction of new Parliament buildings taken out over Tarakohe wharf. In strong onshore winds, vessels departing Tarakohe wharf hauled themselves out to sea by passing a rope through a ring on a buoy.
  • 1923
    300 vessels had entered Waitapu Port in previous 12 months.
  • 1929
    Collingwood Harbour Board comes into being. By 1930s wharf ‘high and dry'. New wharf built in old lagoon but also silting up fast. By war years, Collingwood was all but deserted. Some trade diverted to Waitapu.
  • 1947
    Collingwood Harbour Board dispensed with when Collingwood and Takaka County Councils merged.
  • 1955
    Introduction of bulk shipping of cement from Tarakohe by new vessel: Golden Bay. During 21 years of service, she carried 2,179, 830 tonnes of cement.
  • 1956
    Merger of Councils to form Golden Bay County Council. Waitapu Harbour Board disappears. Much of Waitapu's trade in timber and cement absorbed by Tarakohe
  • 1964
    Second Golden Bay Cement company vessel, Ligar Bay built in response to increased sales of cement.
  • mid 1970s
    Sales of cement reach all time high, four ships to carry Golden Bay cement.
  • Late 1970s
    At Tarakohe, heavy duty wharf built, all weather harbour created with piers encircling area of approx. 18 hectares. By 1980, cement sales had begun to drop off.
  • 1984
    Cement Company ship John Wilson retired after 23 years having transported 4 million tones of cement and travelled nearly 500,000 nautical miles (834,000 km).
  • 1988
    Tarakohe cement plant closed. Port Tarakohe continued to be used for loading of dolomite from Mt Burnett and by fishing and pleasure boats.
  • 1994
    Tasman District Council buys Tarakohe harbour, land and facilities from Golden Bay Cement company for $275,000. Tarakohe used by recreational boaties, commercial fishermen, mussel harvesters and Seatow. Tasman District Council has cargo statistics from this time.
  • 1997
    Tasman District Council plans $940,000 development of Port Tarakohe includes a 40 metre extension to breakwater, 35 berth marina and dredging of marina site.
  • 2001
    Golden Bay Cement Company pulls out of Tarakohe completely: sells cement plant and surrounding land.
  • 2003
    Construction begins on new Tarakohe wharf: harbour entrance narrowed, harbour dredged.
  • 2005
    Two million dollar development at Port Tarakohe officially opens includes 61 berth recreational and commercial marina and extended breakwater.

Timeline produced for the Nelson Provincial Museum, 2005.

Updated August 31, 2021

Sources used in this story

  1. Motueka Harbour Board. (September 1917- April 1932). Minutes [held Tasman District Council].
  2. Talley's get wharf and land for $1.(1998, October 10). Nelson Mail.
  3. S S Lady Barkly : a Tasman Bay personality.  (1969). New Zealand Marine News, 20(4), p.113-115. 
  4. Ross, J. (1977). Pride in their ports. Palmerston North, N.Z: Dunmore,  p 133.

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  • What is the name of the scow moored just upstream from the wharf at Takaka?

    Answer: This is possibly the Alma, a 79 ft deck-loading scow. Ed.

    Posted by Derek Kinley, , 12/06/2018 3:02pm (6 years ago)

  • I worked for the Tarakoe Shipping Co on the M.V.Golden Bay 1966/67 before returning to England.
    I was 2nd mate and mate. I am happy to hear it is still in operation.
    Capt. NJGillibrand MN (Ret'd)

    Posted by N.J.Gillibrand, ()

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Further sources - Tasman Ports timeline




Unpublished resources  

  • Motueka Harbour Board. (September 1917- April 1932). Minutes [held Tasman District Council].  
  • Smith, J.H. (1908-1988). Tarakohe: Golden Bay cement works. [Nelson Provincial Museum].

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