Anzac Park and its surroundings


Anzac Park, originally known as Milton's Acre, has changed considerably over time, largely because of land reclamation.  

Milton's Acre - A Ship's Anchor Acre

Nelson from Matangi Āwhio, Nelson Provincial Museum. Tyree Collection. [The prominent building at the end of Haven Road housed various businesses, including the Custom House. Designed by John Rochfort it remained a feature of Nelson until 1952.]

In the mid 1800s fishing boats tied up on ‘Miltons Acre', the land now Anzac Park, which was owned from the time of European settlement by Captain W. F. Millton1. Spring tides were especially good for larger vessels, while smaller flat-bottomed canoes and barges could proceed southwards up Saltwater Creek.

Captain Millton's land was purchased by the Nelson City Council in 1897 and, by 1912, the area bounded by Haven, Halifax and Rutherford Streets had been reclaimed. Miltons Acre Reserve (somehow the spelling changed from the original Millton), was gradually transformed into the Park we know today. 


Nelson from Port Hills, c.1884 Nelson Provincial Museum, 1207. [Anzac park is now a recognisable shape, with Rutherford St as a boundary.]

Anzac Park

Following World War 1 (1914 - 1918) the reserve was dedicated to soldiers from New Zealand and Australia who had been lost in wars, and named ANZAC Park - after the Australia New Zealand Army Corps.

It was about this time that the Canary Island palms, which give the park its unique style, were planted. Much later, in 1954 when new storm water drains were laid, the park was cut up in a major way. A new layout was created which led to the present-day design of the park.

Donated seats from the Returned Services Association and individuals commemorate Servicewomen, Ordinance division, J Force and the Royal Navy, E.E. Wilson and C.M. Rout. Trees have been planted to commemorate a variety of anniversaries such as the Gallipoli landing and battle of Alamein, as well as service organisations.

In 2011 a magnificent waharoa - a monument of remembrance for the members of the 28th Māori Battalion who have passed away and have whakapapa to Te Tau Ihu - was installed at the entrance to the Park. More information about the waharoa can be found in the War memorials of Nelson story. 


Milton's Acre. Nelson Provincial Museum, FN Jones. [shows the existing shape, sealed park and turnstiles. American elms were planted a bit later]

War Memorial Bridge

Saltwater Bridge, with tall standard lamps and inscribed columns, was completed in 1959, also as a War Memorial. The lamps and columns, including the permanently lit ‘eternal flame', were relocated to the centre of Anzac Park when roading design required a roundabout at the Halifax - Haven intersection creating a cenotaph and general war memorial for the city. Along the western boundary of the park, Saltwater Creek was filled in and along the southern boundary Haven Road became a parking area.


Anzac Park. Nelson Provincial Museum, FN Jones

Auckland Point or Matangi Āwhio

Whakatū (the area now known as Nelson Haven and Nelson City) was treasured by Māori in pre-European times as rich mahinga kai (food gathering place). Seasonal harvests of shellfish, fish, tuna (eels), birds, eggs, aruhe (fern-root), harakeke (flax) and berries were some of the abundant resources available here. Whakatū was also strategically placed at the junction of many important trading routes and was dominated by many different iwi (tribal groups) over many generations. When Europeans first arrived in Nelson they had trading and social contact with various groups of Māori living throughout the district. Matangi Āwhio, known later as Auckland Point, was the closest settlement and became the main market-place for the exchange of produce. Matangi Āwhio had been used for settlement since the 1400s. Over the years land was lost to town development but an area of the original village is now owned by the Whakatū Incorporation. It is planted in native species with pathways and viewpoints. 

Moller Fountain

The illuminated Moller Fountain, on Haven Road, was originally gifted anonymously to Anzac Park in 1940. Nelson City Council disagreed with its proposed siting, raising a public outcry. The editor of the ‘Nelson Evening Mail' held a voting poll and the majority wanted Anzac Park. But the Council decided the fountain was not appropriate and so the present site was chosen as a compromise. Mrs Moller performed the fountain unveiling ceremony where her identity was revealed.

Bernard Henry Moller had established himself as a seed, fruit and potato merchant in 1878 in Bridge St importing his stock from growers all around the world.  He had a strong community spirit,  being a justice of the Peace, and a leading member in both Masonic and Oddfellow associations, plus being a prominent figure in sporting circles.  He had an active interest in the Nelson Horticultural Society, The Prince Albert Football Club and Nelson Bowling Club.  Mrs Moller had the distinction of being the first Chief Ranger of female Foresters in the world.

Haven Road School

Haven Road School, built in 1880, sat long enough on its site to have a frontage of mud flat changed to a park, but this transformation took time. No attending pupil would have seen the entire change.  From the time of the first construction of Rutherford Street and Halifax Street, which formed its boundaries, the tide was not completely held back for another 28 years. The school site was sold to Nelson City Council in 1927 when Auckland Point School opened up further down Haven Road.

This material was initially used on a Nelson Heritage Trust Information panel, 2004. Updated Jan 2021.

Haven Road School on Haven Road. Nelson Provincial Museum,  FN Jones
Click image to enlarge
Miltons Acre Reserve and Haven Road School. Nelson Provincial Museum,  FN Jones.
Click image to enlarge

Sources used in this story

  1. Bell, C.(1978) Unfinished business : the second fifty years of the Nelson City Council, Nelson, N.Z.: Nelson City Council, p. 68.

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  • What a valuable piece of historic record for our waterfront. It would be nice to see more of the sites making reference to this history.

    Posted by Sean Walker, 03/11/2023 5:17pm (7 months ago)

  • Re: Millton's Acre. A small correction to what you have above. Captain W.N. (Willian Newton) Millton. This was the home port for his coastal steamer the 'Zingari' (1854-1858). He co-owned the vessel with Maxwell Bury (architect).

    Posted by Gerard Morris, 27/11/2017 5:12pm (6 years ago)

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Further sources - Anzac Park and its surroundings



  • Mason, P. (2011) The Moller fountain and its donors. Nelson Historical Society Journal, 7(3), p.17 

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