The Wood, Nelson Town


The Wood area of Nelson Town is bounded by the course of the lower Mahitahi/Maitai River, the northern shore of Nelson Haven from Trafalgar Street, extending eastwards to the range of hills above Milton Street.  Arthur Wakefield’s meticulous records of his meetings with tangata whenua during late 1841 indicate that no Māori were residing in the town area at that time. 

Settler Commentaries
Seasonal exploitation of resources in the area was noted.  F.V. Knapp identified fishing camps on the northern sea front of The Wood, along Wainui Street, and what appeared to have been a permanent occupation site on the northern bank of the Maitai River near the mouth, on the edge of The Wood.

An interesting traditional Māori use of the resources growing in The Wood area was recorded by William Simmonds: 

“To the seaward, a number of trees of the Pukatea were growing.  Some of these being hollow were much sought after by the native youth of the time for making canoes, and many a daring feat was performed in these frail craft, in running out by the rocks with the tide, to the fishing grounds in the Waimea”.

Māori Accounts
In traditional Māori accounts Ihaka Tekateka of Ngāti Koata said that “Wi Katene [Ngāti Tama chief at Wakapuaka] had a clearing at Nelson” and Paramena Haereiti gave evidence that ”Wi Katene had a mahinga over in the Wood about the place that Bishop Hobhouse lived”, and “… it was before the Company  came that Wi Katene cultivated the land alongside the Maitai River”.

Wood Hobhouse sketch

Nicholson, Maria, active 1859-1861. [Nicholson, Maria], fl 1859-62 :[House in Nelson rented by Bishop Hobhouse, 1859-63. ca 1860].. Ref: A-306-006. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22853717

Bishop Hobhouse, first bishop of Nelson, and his wife, Mary, rented an attractive house in Grattan Street, The Wood, from 1859 to 1863.  Grattan Street is now the northern end of Tasman Street (from Bridge Street to Weka Street).  There are many sketches of the house drawn by Mary Hobhouse, the Rev. Codrington and Maria Nicholson.

Arthur Wakefield’s Dealings with Paremata Te Wahapiro and Te Haehaeora
In January 1842, during the hiatus before the arrival of the first settler ships, Paremata Te Wahapiro and Eharo (Te Haehaeora) of Ngāti Tama travelled from Wakapuaka to Nelson in three waka, bringing gifts for Arthur Wakefield.  They wanted to plant potatoes on lands being surveyed for Nelson Town, and negotiated the use of sections along the Maitai River, on the understanding that they would relinquish them once the survey was completed and the sections allocated to immigrants or the Tenths Reserves estate.  With the survey nearly complete and the arrival of immigrant ships imminent, Paremata’s people immediately began clearing the lands approved for their temporary use, in order to get a crop through to maturity in the time available.

Wood tenths

Tenths Reserves in the Wood. Image supplied by author

Tenths Reserves in The Wood
At the meeting in April 1842 to allocate the Nelson Town sections, Police Magistrate Henry Thompson selected Tenths Reserves in accordance with the Company’s Native policy, including sections in The Wood.  Some lots may have been chosen because of their importance to Māori as mahinga kai (food-gathering places), tauranga waka (waka landing places) or mara (cultivations).

The map highlights in yellow the Tenths Reserves Thompson selected:  at least nine were probably chosen because of their proximity to mahinga kai (food-gathering sites).  Within The Wood Sections 241, 248, 253, 256, 261, 263 and 280 bound the northern shore of Nelson Haven and Sections 303 and 344 are on the eastern bank of the Maitai River.  Seven other sections – Nos. 265, 267, 283, 284, 294, 305 and 307, were probably chosen to ensure the Tenths Trust had a stake in a potentially desirable residential area of Nelson Town.


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Further sources - The Wood, Nelson Town