Poiwhai, Punawai and Mānuka Island


Frederick Tuckett’s 1842 map of the Nelson Settlement shows in yellow 100 of the 1,100 one-acre Nelson Town Sections surveyed for Nelson Town.  These were the New Zealand Company’s Native Tenths Reserves sections – the one-tenth of the purchased land the Company had promised to set aside for the Māori vendor chiefs and their people.  Police Magistrate Henry Thompson, acting on behalf of the Government-appointed Trustees of Native Reserves, selected the Tenths Reserves in April 1842.

Tuckett town plan

Nelson Town Plan, adapted from Tuckett, 1842. (Native Tenths Reserves are highlighted in yellow)

Quite a number of Tenths Reserve lots bounded Nelson Harbour, Nelson Haven and the Mahitahi River – sites favoured by local Māori as tauranga waka (canoe landing places), land suitable for habitations and cultivations, or providing ready access to seasonal mahinga kai (food-gathering places).  The harbour sites were also ideal locations from which Māori provided ferry and “tug” services to arriving immigrant vessels and store ships.

Sections for settler occupation (or absentee investors) and the Native Tenths Reserves were selected according to an order of choice determined by ballot in the Company’s London office.  Thompson in Nelson was given the order of choices the ballot had produced for the selection of the Tenths Reserves.  Fortunately Thompson’s parcel of 100 choices included several low numbers, allowing him to select sites favoured by Māori as Tenths Reserves before settlers or investors could choose them.  Thompson’s first five choices as Town Tenths Reserves were Sections 62, 63, 64, 65, and 65 at Matangi Āwhio (Auckland Point), which soon became established as a landing place, accommodation and trading post for Māori visitors to the burgeoning town.  Motueka Māori had pointed out this favoured locality to the New Zealand Company on Boxing Day 1841, and may have identified other important sites at the same time, including Poiwhai, Punawai and Mānuka Island. 

Poiwhai - Town  Section  No. 50 (bottom of Russell Street)

Thompson used his sixth choice, after selecting the five sections at Matangi Āwhio, to secure Section 50 nearby, another temporary habitation site for Māori visiting Nelson town. Section 50 was called Green Point by the Company settlers, and is located at the foot of Russell Street, approximately 500 metres from Matangi Āwhio.  The original Māori name, if any, for the exact site is not known, but the hill frontage between Green Point and Matangi Āwhio was called Poiwhai. 

Auckland Point.jpg

Auckland Point October 1, 1843. J.W. Barnicoat, The Nelson Provincial Museum, Bett Collection, 286. (Māori houses bottom centre)

During his inaugural visit to Nelson in August 1842 as Trustee of Native Reserves, Bishop Selwyn recommended that rent monies from the Native Reserves be used to build houses for Māori visiting Nelson Town;  he chose the flat land at Poiwhai for his plan.  His sketch envisaged five houses, one each for Māori visiting from “... Rangitoto, Motu-eka, Tai Tapu, Wakapuaka and Hoe-era [Pelorus]” , with a chapel on the hill behind.  A long low wall with a broad flat top was to be built in front of the houses at the top of the beach for the display of produce and goods for sale.  Selwyn’s plan was implemented in part with the erection of an initial house on Section 50, but further houses and the low wall were built on Sections 62-66 at Matangi Āwhio;  the chapel never eventuated.

Punawai:  Nelson Town Tenths Reserve Section No. 5 (bottom of Richardson Street)
Charles Heaphy Safe Port

Charles Heaphy - Safe port, Nelson Haven 1841. Site of Punawai on nearby shore. Mānuka Island at centre of sketch.

Thompson used his eighth choice to select Section 5 opposite the southern end of Te Taero o Kereopa (the Boulder Bank).  Ngāti Koata - whose main pā and kāinga were at Rangitoto (D'Urville Island), Hoiere (Pelorus) and Whangarae (Croisilles) - had a seasonal camp, Punawai, at the mouth of the Mahitahi (Maitai River).  Punawai, named because a spring-fed stream flowed through the site, was conveniently placed for ready access to fisheries of Te Tai o Whakatu (Tasman Bay) and Paruroroa (Nelson Haven) and birds and eggs on the Boulder Bank. 

The New Zealand Company’s survey included most of Punawai within Section No. 5, although midden areas associated with the kāinga were discovered in 1997 beneath the road-bed near the bottom of Richardson Street. 

Mānuka  Island:  Nelson Town Tenths Reserve Section No. 1099 (on Haulashore Island)

Section 1099 on Mānuka Island was Thompson’s 18th choice.  In 1842 Mānuka Island was the southern end of the Boulder Bank, only an island during very high tides.  (When severed from the Boulder Bank in 1906 by The Cut the area was renamed Haulashore Island).

Barnicoat Sketch Port Nelson Feb 25 1844

Barnicoat Sketch of Port Nelson, Feb 25 1844. Nelson Provincial Museum. Copy of a sketch of a view looking west across Nelson Harbour, showing Fifeshire Rock, the Boulder Bank and Haulashore Island.

Martha Adams who arrived in Nelson in 1850 described a Māori party who boarded her ship, the Eden, before it had even docked in the harbour, as ”... rowing about from their island in the Harbour where they reside to all the vessels, of which there were seven others anchored there”. 

Two years later the Adams family arose at dawn to travel to Wairau.  Their early start was timed to coincide with the tide so that their boat could pass between “Boulder Rock” (Arrow or Fifeshire Rock?) and  “Mānuka Island ... a barren bit of land in possession of the Natives, with some Mānuka and a few other small shrubs growing on it.”   

Martha described a party of Māori who had been staying on the island when she and her children were landed there, while her husband and another man struggled to get their boat through the narrow harbour entrance:

“… a party of Maoris, who had dragged their curious looking canoe high on shore, and by their long low tent and evidences of fire had apparently spent the night there. They were now preparing to depart accompanied by their mongrel dogs. The figure head of the prow was elaborately carved in dark looking wood, and along each side were attached feathers at even distances. There were 4 or 5 women of the party, who added extremely to the picturesqueness of the group, have [sic] plaited themselves wreaths of the large amber papilionaceous flowers of the native Kowhai, and entwined them round their long jetty tresses. They had all both men and women garments, partly native and partly English: such as a pair of trousers and a blanket, or a woman in a cotton dress made after the fashion of a sack, i.e. tried round the neck, after getting into it thro’ the bottom, and wrapped over this was a scarlet blanket.” 

Ngāti Raārua of Motueka have traditions of their ancestors' visits to camp sites on Mānuka Island for seasonal harvests of kahawai, tamure (snapper) and other species traversing the narrow entrance to the shallows of Nelson Haven.  Four sections, 1097 to 1100, were surveyed on the island; Thompson selected Section 1099 as a Tenths Reserve.  Section 1099 Mānuka Island was the last of Thompson’s choices of sections immediately bounding the harbour entrance and port area, although he used later choices to secure sections close to mahinga kai of Paruroroa (Nelson Haven) and lower reaches of the Maitai River. 

Alienation of Section 1099
After paying a peppercorn rental for about 60 years, Nelson City Council took Section 1099 under the Public Works Act in 1958:  £220 was paid in compensation and the essential purpose for which it was taken was recorded as “recreation purposes”.

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Further sources - Poiwhai, Punawai and Mānuka Island