Farm Settlements for Returned Soldiers


During World War I (1914-1918) the New Zealand Government decreed that soldiers returning from overseas service would be given the opportunity to settle on farms of their own, specially purchased and developed for that purpose.

There would appear to have been two reasons for this decision:

  • Young men serving in the defence forces lost time and experience in civilian jobs while serving their country and at the same time only receiving a set salary.
  • The government could see the need for closer settlement on existing large farms (runs) and this would bring increased food production for local consumption and also export.

In 1915 the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act was passed which gave the Government authority to purchase suitable land for closer settlement. The existing owner of any land selected had the right to retain any part of his farm that constituted an economic unit and also the homestead block, with the balance taken under the Act making at least one economic unit.

Alberton Settlement coupleAlberton Settlement couple. Image supplied by author
Click image to enlarge

A number of properties in Marlborough were acquired for soldier settlement including Erina (Wairau Valley) Alberton (Dillons Point), Moorlands (Rapaura), Linkwaterdale, Goat Hills, Wither and Bomford.1 The Government could assist the successful applicant to clear scrub, dig drains, erect buildings, purchase implements, stock, seed etc., with these costs being secured by a first mortgage. Title to the property was usually granted as leasehold with the right to freehold later. The successful applicant had to remain on the farm for ten years. If there was more than one applicant for a property, a ballot was held and all applicants could attend.

Moorlands Settlement plan SO1271 1919

Moorlands Settlement plan SO1271 1919. LINZ

In 1943 (during WWII) a similar Act was passed and farm settlements named Greenhills (Kaikoura District), Sedgemere (Blind River), Speeds (Koromiko), Valleyfield (Avon area), Warwick (Awatere), Puhi Puhi , Lakes, Elms, Ludstone (Kaikoura area), Torodes (Omaka - orchards), Dashwood, Avondale, Motukawa (Rapaura), Totaranui, Clarence, Delta, and Corleggy (Awatere)2 and possibly others, were bought by the Crown, developed, subdivided and settled by returned soldiers. At least one of these farms has now passed down to the third generation of the original soldier.

There were conditions for eligibility for farms, including previous farming experience and how much personal money the applicant had available to put into the farm. On qualifying to apply for a farm, the applicant could choose which farm settlement(s) he would prefer and, if there were more than the required number of applicants (which was usual) for that settlement, a ballot was held which participants could attend and know the results immediately.

On returning from WWI my grandfather applied for sections in both Erina and Moorlands Settlements and was successful in obtaining Section 6S of Moorlands, which was bounded by Rapaura and Jacksons Roads and the Opawa River. I believe the family lived in a mud 'whare' already on the property until he could afford to build a modern bungalow. He remained on the property until retirement in the late 1940s. Previous to the war, he had worked on farms in Canterbury and also in the Waterfalls area (Awatere).

2012. Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Archway. Retrieved from Archives New Zealand 
  2. Marlborough Archives, Marlborough Museum

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  • Hi I am looking for any information on the PARATU BLOCK near Morrinsville/Matamata that was divided into rehab settlement farms for WW2 returned servicemen - one of these men was my grandfather - my mothers dying wish was to memorialise this act of rehabilitation as it transformed hers and so many others lives for the better...ANY INFORMATION - names dates people etc etc would be fabulous! Thanks in advance. Susan-M
    Emailing reply. Ed.

    Posted by Susan~Mary Pryor, 21/09/2023 4:56am (8 months ago)

  • My Grandfather William Marshall Macready got a farm in a war ballot after WW3 up the Rakaia gorge, how can I find more info?

    Posted by Justin Macready, 28/09/2020 7:34pm (4 years ago)

  • I am trying to get whatever information I can on an allocation my father received in Rewi Road Ngakuru after his return as a soldier from ww2 . Any information would be wonderful to receive. We had to leave the farm when my younger brother got very sick and as my dad died many years ago this information is lost. His name was Kenneth Russell Villis married to Gladys. We do have a centenary booklet from Ngakuru that mentioned him in it.
    Looking forward to hearing from you
    Rodger Russell Villis (son)

    Editor – The Archives NZ website Archway lists a 1946 Hamilton Land Sales / Land Valuation Proceedings File for Kenneth Russell Villis. The record was created by the 'Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act 1952’, so may contain the information you are looking for. These files are held in Archives New Zealand, Auckland Office, so get in touch with them and they should be able to help you.

    Posted by Rodger Villis, 06/05/2020 7:26pm (4 years ago)

  • Hi, just tried to find the references you've linked below about Maori soldiers receiving farm settlements, since we were on a property today in the King Country where this appeared to have happened. We have the name of the returned serviceman from the current owners of the farm. So curious to learn more on this.

    Posted by Karen Barrett, 07/04/2018 12:47pm (6 years ago)

  • Did Maori soldiers receive farm settlements.
    Generally not, see these two references for further reading, Ed.:
    “Proof of gratitude: soldier land settlement in New Zealand after Word War 1 by Ashley Nevil Gould (PHD Theses) p.308-

    Posted by Stephen Marshall, 10/12/2017 1:03pm (6 years ago)

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