Mayors of Nelson


Mayoral Memorial Walk 
Mayoral memories walkMayoral memories walk, Nelson City Council.
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This walk maps the early history of the Nelson City Council under the leadership of some Mayors who served the city between 1874 and 1913, and who are buried at Wakapuaka Cemetery.  The stories are chronologically ordered and coloured markers are found at intervals to guide your way, corresponding to the religious denomination groupings buried here.

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This is one of a number of Nelson City Council heritage walks.

Buried in Wakapuaka Cemetery 

In the early years of Nelson City Council, Mayors were elected for one year and Councillors for two. This led to many non-consecutive mayoral terms, and many mayors served as councillors for long periods. It also led to delays in making decisions around projects needing major expenditure.

Mayor DodsonJ R Dodson, Mayor: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio
Collection: 32005
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1.  Joseph Reid Dodson (1874-75; 1877-81)
Joseph Dodson became the first mayor in 1874 of the struggling little town that became a city by virtue of a royal decree. This was due to Nelson being the site of a Bishop's seat rather than the size of its population. Dodson was a member of the Board of Works which had been in place since 1853, tackling such thorny problems as sewerage disposal and the foul "Ditch" which ran through the centre of the city and was reputed to have been the source of repeated epidemics killing the town's children. Unfortunately the new Council, which was elected in 1874, immediately came into conflict with the Provincial Government over the profits of the harbour operation and costs of the gasworks. Accounts of both organisations were hopelessly muddled,  and Nelson City Council went bankrupt early in 1875, and Dodson, and most of the Councillors resigned. He did a second, happier term in 1877-1881.

Mayor Lowther BroadMr Broad : The Nelson Provincial Museum, Brown Collection: 8x10 Box 1
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2.  Lowther Broad
Lowther Broadheld an extraordinary number of roles in the community:  Resident Magistrate, Sheriff , Registration and Returning Officer, Registrar of Poisons, Sub commissioner for Government Insurance and warden of Wangapeka goldfield. He stepped in and conducted an election for new city councillors in 1875. Seven nominees neatly filled seven positions. Broad, a leading member of the Catholic community also wrote The Jubilee History of Nelson 1842-1892  before dying suddenly in 1892.

Mayor LevienJ H Levien: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Print Collection: 297185
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 3.  Joseph Henry Levien (1875-76)

Levien,  the next mayor, was a local businessman of immense drive. He sorted out the city's financial management. No doubt the gas being cut off and the lights going out at a Council meeting focused councillors on the need for decisive action. Unfortunately Levien died in 1876 before really seeing the results of his hard work,  but by insisting on the appointment of a capable and dedicated town clerk, with legal qualifications, he ensured Council's finances were soundly managed. H.V. Gully (son of the famous painter John Gully) was chosen. He was an accountant as well as a barrister and solicitor and was chosen above many other applicants to be Town Clerk for the next 34 years.

 John Sharp  (1887 - 1890)  [Not on map]     

John Sharp
John Sharp . The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 176507

After retiring from business, Sharp took on many civic duties, representing Nelson on the Provincial Council from 1874 to 1876 and serving as MP for Nelson city from 1875 to 1879. He also served as Mayor of Nelson from 1887 to 1890, replacing Charles Fell and was   succeeded by Francis Trask. 1888 was a year of retrenchment. Unemployment was high and diptheria was rife. By 1889 the two most important matters        the Council were discussing were improving sanitation and making a road around the Rocks (for access to Waimea). Unfortunately a typhoid epidemic broke out in 1889. Mayor Sharp retired from the Mayoralty in December 1890.¹                                   

Mayor TraskMr Francis Trask: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 44118
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4.   Francis Trask (1890-1900)
Mayor Trask steered Nelson through some very lean times coming to office at the time of yet another typhoid epidemic. He kept a steady course through the 1895-7 depression. Happier moments came in 1892 when the enthusiastic 50th jubilee celebration of Nelson took place. Rocks Road was completed, rather slowly, making copious use of prison labour and it was  finally metalled in 1897. Trask had a passion for parks and gardens and Queens Garden was developed during his tenure, and the southern garden gates are a memorial to him.

Mayor FieldT A H Field, mayor: The Nelson Provincial Museum, Print Collection: 287248
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5.    Joseph Auty Harley (1900-1901)
Harley was a councillor on and off from 1876, becoming Mayor for a short term 1900-1901. Harley struggled, like other Mayors before him, to get approval from ratepayers to spend money on large civil works, despite a pressing need to deal with sanitation in particular. The Jubilee History of the Council records that councillors "may not have had anything great to do but they did it with meticulous care and infinite discussion" due to the "disputacious character of certain councillors". Joseph was one of a number of Harleys who had strong opinions and served the Council with passion and drive. Prior to entering Council Joseph had been educated at Nelson College, and worked in the Magistrates Court where, among other duties, he had collected sheep and dog tax. He also worked for a while as a brewer, owning Raglan breweries, now Fifeshire House. His father Charles had been the owner of the Carpenters Arms Hotel built in 1843,  which was the centre of social life at that time in the colony.

Mr A.J. HarleyMr J.A. Harley,Cyclopedia of New Zealand (NZETC)
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6.   Thomas Field (1911-1913)
Field, the son of the founder of Wilkins & Field ironmongers and himself Managing Director,  was the first Mayor to serve a consecutive two year term aligned with Councillors' terms of service. Field found his main task was to get roads in order after the large water, drainage and sewerage works of past Councils had finally been approved, financed and completed. Anzac Park reclamation was also completed and planting commenced in this attractive Park, which pays homage to those Nelsonians who died in war. Field went on to sit as Nelson's Member of Parliament.

7.   William Lock (1914-1915) is also buried in the mayoral corner of Wakapuaka Cemetery (Lot  003 Block 11). He served the city of Nelson as Councillor and then mayor for over 40 years and died in 1940 aged 82. He was also the entrepreneurial owner of Locks Warehouse and Emporium/


Note: See Nelson's Roll of Honour [PDF] - Nelson City Council Mayors and Councillors 1874- (note the list of Councillors is incomplete for the 1876-1911 period)

Updated February 2024

Sources used in this story

  • ¹ Broad, L. (1892) The jubilee history of Nelson: from 1842 - 1892, Nelson, N.Z.: Bond, Finney & Co, pp13-15. 

Want to find out more about the Mayors of Nelson ? View Further Sources here.

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  • Thomas Pettit was the 11th Mayor of Nelson, from 1910-1911. He was buried in the Wakapuaka Cemetery, Block 6, Plot 034A on 8 July 1934. His wife Isabella is buried in the same plot. Thomas's Obituary was published in the Nelson Evening Mail, 6 July 1934, Pg 2. See also Nelson Evening Mail, 20 July 1934, Pg 4. There is a photo of Thomas on Find A Grave Memorial ID 171758742.

    Posted by Allan Pope, 25/09/2023 8:50pm (7 months ago)

  • Thank you. I now realise there are two versions of the Roll of Honour. The one above (referred to previously) and then the one below in 'Other' section. The one below has a Council triennium of 2019 to 2021 when should be 2019 to 2022, and no mention of the 2022 to 2025 term. In the 1989 to 1992 Council triennium there was also a ward system like in the current 2022 to 2025 term. So, for instance, in 1989 Councillor Greer was elected in the Fifeshire Ward and Councillor Mitchell in the Maitai Ward. In both versions of Nelson's Roll of Honour (above and below) however you have all Councillors elected 'at large' in the 1989 to 1992 triennium.
    Ed. thank you - will will update so both links point to the same correct document

    Posted by Nelson's Roll of Honour [PDF] Nelson City Council Mayors and Councillors 1874 - , 18/04/2023 4:10pm (1 year ago)

  • In the Nelson's Roll of Honour [PDF] (the link is above on this page) Nelson City Council Mayors and Councillors 1874 - on, there are a couple of corrections that need to be made for 2022 to 2025. Councillor Snson to Sanson. Councillor Brant to Brand. Ed. Thank you we will amend

    Posted by Nelson's Roll of Honour [PDF] Nelson City Council Mayors and Councillors 1874 -, 15/04/2023 4:00pm (1 year ago)

  • The picture of Joseph Auty Harley is not correct. Here is a link to him as a young man. Many thanks,Laura (his great granddaughter)
    Ed. The picture is correct, as recorded in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, pub.1906 just after J.A.Harley's tenure. There was a second J.A.Harley as Mayor of Nelson, 1947-56 who served in WWI and pictured in the Cenotaph link.

    Posted by Laura Harley, 12/09/2022 2:03pm (2 years ago)

  • My Great Grandfather Thomas John ROBERTSON would have been working in Nelson, NZ as a Coach Painter during these mayor's, terms. Died 1910 at Waimea Street. Remarkable family they survived, the insanitrey conditions. Scottish Robertson 's and McBeath. [ McBeth]

    Posted by Sarah Abercrombie, 25/06/2022 5:49pm (2 years ago)

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Further sources - Mayors of Nelson





  • Persico, Y. (2022) Missing Mayor Snodgrass. Nelson Historical Society Journal, 9(2), pp.27-35



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