Nelson City Council - the origins


The first Nelson Provincial Council was elected in 1853 and housed in the large Provincial Council buildings in Bridge St (near the current Nelson Courthouse) from around 1859. The first selected Superintendent of Nelson was E.W. Stafford followed by John Perry Robinson then Alfred Saunders from 1865-67. The last Superintendent of Nelson was Oswald Curtis. The Board of Works administered the town's affairs, such as creating a water supply, gas works, streets, bridges and a rudimentary sewage system. When the original Provincial Council buildings were demolished in August 1969 there was much controversy. (The City of Nelson Civic Trust was formed in 1973 as a result of citizens’ concerns about this demolition).1

Nelson Provincial buildings c1890

Nelson Provincial Council Buildings. pre 1892 from NZETC

Nelson became a City in 1858 with a seat for an Anglican Bishop; Marlborough seceded from Nelson Province in 1859 and the Municipal Corporations Act gave Nelson a right to govern itself in 1867, but it was not until 30 March 1874 that the former Board of Works became the new City Council. It moved to the empty Examiner newspaper buildings in Upper Trafalgar St and selected J.R. Dodson as Nelson's first Mayor two weeks later at its first meeting on 17 April 1874.2  Several Mayors followed in short succession. 

council building 1903 ref no 320726

Nelson Council Chambers 1903 . Nelson Provincial Museum ref 320726

A new Municipal Building, which was built for the Nelson City Council in 1903, was sited on the eastern corner of Trafalgar Street and Trafalgar Square and was demolished in 1990.  The Council moved into what had been the Nelson Post Office on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar St in 1991 after NZ Post services were deregulated and the building was sold.

Tāhunanui Town District was created in 1920 and amalgamated into Nelson City in 1950. Stoke was known as Suburban South and was part of Waimea County and not included in the Nelson city area until 1958, along with the suburbs of Enner Glynn, Wakatu, Annesbrook and Monaco. Areas north of Nelson were known as Suburban North. Atawhai joined Nelson City in April 1968 and Wakapuaka, Todd's Valley, Glenduan, Hira, Teal Valley, Lud Valley and Delaware Bay came under Nelson City Council jurisdiction, rather than Waimea County Council in 1989, as a result of the local government reforms which followed the Local Government Act 1987.   The local government reforms saw the end of Waimea County Council with the creation of Tasman District Council, as well as the creation of Nelson-Marlborough Regional Council in 1989. This Regional body was dissolved only three years later, in 1992, when Nelson City Council, together with Tasman District Council and Marlborough District Council, became unitary authorities.

Nelson City Council purchased the historic Broadgreen House and gardens in 1965. In its 110 year history as a family home it had only had two owners, the Buxtons and the Langbeins.

Despite Nelson having one of the first libraries in the country, it was one of the last to link up with the National library service to provide a free system - there was debate in the Council chamber over several years but in October 1973 it was agreed that the library would became linked to the National service (it had become Council's responsibility since 1965 and was based on a subscription system, along with the Stoke branch which had opened the same year.)3. At that time the Nelson library operated out of the Nelson Institute building on Hardy St.

In 1975 the house and gardens of Melrose House were gifted to the people of Nelson. The Council was reluctant at first but volunteers kept the garden in good order and today a cafe there is a popular destination for Nelsonians.

In 1982 the City Council voted to build a new dam in the Maitai/ Mahitahi catchment area. It took two years to build. There was some dissent but continuous dry summers and the need for a good supply of drinking water encouraged its construction. Periodical flooding along the Maitai river was frequent before the dam was built with many riverside properties affected but this was reduced after the dam completion.

Other Council project highlights to date:

November 2021

Sources used in this story

  1. The City of Nelson Civic Trust 's Trust Deed created an independent entity that could attract donations to build up a fund to protect heritage buildings and promote projects to contribute to the enhancement of Nelson City and the enjoyment of its people.
  2. Local and general news (1874, April 18) Colonist, p.3
  3. Bell, C.W. (1978) Unfinished business. NelsonNelson City Council, Nelson, p.76

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