Captain F.G. Moore


Captain Frederick George Moore was not a great man and never claimed to be. He was blamed for sinking the Fifeshire and was involved with many failed ventures, but he was the first New Zealand Company man to sail into Nelson Haven and realise its potential as a site for a Company settlement. He was the first white man to set foot on the Boulder Bank and the first white man to farm in Motueka.

Captain G F Moore. Nelson Provincial Museum, Isaacs & Clark Collection: 8206
Click image to enlarge

Captain Moore was born in London in 1815 into a seafaring family.  Aged 11 he was sent to naval college, but soon left in disgrace and was dispatched to sea in the merchant service. There he did well, and by the time he was 23 he was a chief officer and sailing in Australian waters.

In 1839 Moore decided to emigrate to New Zealand and joined the Bengal Merchant, chartered by the newly-formed New Zealand Company, as a ship's officer. The ship arrived in Wellington in February 1840, where Moore disembarked and mixed with the small settler community.

Charles Heaphy. Nelson Haven. (1841-2) Nelson Provincial Museum
Click image to enlarge

Moore soon became friends with Charles Heaphy and they began exploring the country. When Heaphy left Wellington with Dieffenbach's geological expedition, Moore returned to sea with the schooner, the Jewess, in May 1840, first as Mate and later as Master, to look for more land suitable for settlement. For 18 months he  travelled the New Zealand coast,  sailing into hitherto uncharted bays and inlets,  especially around "Blind Bay" near Motueka, which offered potential for settlement.

Captain Moore learned the Māori language during the course of his trips and formed a relationship with a young Māori girl, Paru, from West Whanganui (Westhaven Inlet) - a gift from Riwai Turangapeke, the chief there.  However, in March 1841, the Jewess was wrecked at Waikanae and his crew had to be rescued by an armed party led by Heaphy. Moore then offered his services to Captain Arthur Wakefield of the New Zealand Company, and piloted Wakefield's boats, with the early settlers on board, to Massacre Bay and Blind Bay.  His local knowledge proved invaluable.

After settlement had taken place in the Motueka district, Captain Moore, Captain Cross, Mr Brown and a Māori by the name of Pito, sailed across the bay in a cutter and "discovered" Nelson Haven, on 20 October 1841.  The New Zealand Company recognised that the area offered valuable, safe anchorage, and so the site of the Company's main settlement was determined and "Nelson" was established. 

Then disaster struck.  On February 27 1842 Moore, who was hoping to be appointed as  Nelson's harbourmaster,  was acting for the ailing regular harbour pilot, James Cross.  The Fifeshire, one of Nelson's first four ships, was due to leave port having dropped its settlers. However, after weighing anchor, the wind failed and the ship was out of control; drifting onto rocks it was wrecked. Moore was blamed and dismissed, although he claimed that he had been encouraged to allow the departure, in a failing wind, by the Fifeshire's Captain.

Gilfillan, John Alexander 1793-1864 :Interior of a native village or "pa" in New Zealand, situated near the Town of Petre, at Wanganui... J.A. Gilfillan, pinxt., E. Walker, lithr. [London] Day & Son [1850]. Ref: C-029-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
[Moore exhibited this  picture at the Great Exhibition, on behalf of his friend Gilfillan.] Click image to enlarge

Moore then opened a store, but two months later, it failed and he left Nelson to establish Poenamu Farm at Motueka. There he found contentment, dining on pork and roasted kid, writing to a friend that he was becoming "learned in tulips and cauliflowers", and enjoying the comfort of his long-time companion Paru. Other settlers soon joined him in the area. However, by 1846 the economy of the Nelson region was struggling and the store failed. Moore took up a post surveying the Haven and the Wairau region for more land for settlement, but left later in the year for Auckland, with his friend Heaphy, hoping to get command of a ship. This did not happen, and in his disappointment, he returned to England in 1849 at his own expense.

In England Moore married and took part in the New Zealand display at the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also made representations to the government to provide steam vessels for use in New Zealand and Australian waters.

Moore's Memorial erected 1965 on Haven Road in Nelson. Nelson City Council, 2012. Click image to enlarge

He had some success in this venture in 1852 when the steamers sailed, the Queen of the South for New Zealand and the Lady Jocelyn for Australia. Captain Moore was presented with a medal inscribed "For Services" by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, in recognition of his services to New Zealand before he left with the steam vessels. The medal is now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

In Australia Moore got caught up in the goldrush, and started several ventures. All failed and, in 1877, he returned to New Zealand,  to fail again in a mining venture in Wanganui. He returned to Wellington and became involved in politics before settling down to write his memoirs in 1887. He died in 1892, having returned once more to Nelson earlier in the year, for the 50th Jubilee of the City.

There is a monument commemorating Moore's "discovery" of Nelson Haven, installed in 1965 by his grand-daughter Stella Hazlewood, beside Haven Road. 


Updated May 6, 2020

Sources used in this story

  • Ross, J.O. (1982)  Captain F.G. Moore: Mariner and pioneer. Wanganui [N.Z.] : Wanganui Newspapers

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