Nelson Street Names


When the first settlers arrived in Nelson in 1841 under the Wakefield Company settlement plan, the first committee they set up was the street naming committee. Unfortunately it proved a contentious issue and after much bickering the committee broke up.

Later there were other complications when survey plans drawn up in England showed streets like Parere, Northesk  and Van Diemen climbing straight up the side of steep hills. Apparently they didn’t realise
we had hills in Nelson.

Prominent Nelson street names were named after people, places and events associated with Lord Nelson

Initially, the streets of Nelson were named after people, places and events associated with Lord Nelson. Hence names like Collingwood, Hardy, Trafalgar, Bronte, Brougham, Victory, Vanguard, St Vincent, Nile, Northesk were chosen for the original settlement. However, these soon ran out and over the years the practice changed to recognising prominent people who had made contributions to the city, Names like Wakefield, DomettMarsden, Tuckett, ElliottCawthron, Akersten, Saxton, Kingsford, Harley, Poynter, Ann Bird, Kate Edger, were all perpetuated. For some reason most of the mayors of Nelson missed out, although all of the early bishops of Nelson were recognised.

A bank of names, many of them suggested by the public, was kept by Nelson City Council from which selections for street names could be made when needed. It was standard practice not to name streets after any living persons.

Other trends also emerged as Māori names were introduced. Geographic features such as Mount, Brook, Rocks, Ridgeway, Bridge, Haven, Grove, Mount Pleasant were also adopted. Later, Governor Generals were recognised, as were English counties and we even have a poets' corner (in Stoke). The name of a few early property owners began to creep in. Some of the streets did not appear to like their names. The best example of this was Milton Grove which was changed to Ajax Avenue and then finally to Riverside. There are other examples of where street names were changed, such as Waimea Street to Rutherford Street, Beachville Crescent to Fountain Place.

The naming of streets was the prerogative of the Council. However, over recent years Council has allowed commercial sub-dividers to name their streets in their subdivisions. This has led to a commercialisation of street naming. The term street seems to be no longer used. Designations such as avenue, way, drive, heights, crescent, chase are now the vogue. The New Zealand Geographic Board defines the correct use of each of these designations, but few people take any notice of these in their effort to achieve commercial benefit. Names like Highview, Tasman Heights, Panorama Drive look set to be the pattern.

The City Council keeps a record of how and when each street is named. The streets of Nelson generally reflect the character of Nelson and many of the historical associations of the city.

This article first appeared in the Nelson Weekly, 2010. Updated May 2020


Sources used in this story

  1. At a Meeting of the Street Committee (26 March 1842) Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume I, p.9.
  2. At a Meeting of the Street Committee
  3. At a Meeting of the Street Committee
  4. Fairfield Park History Board
  5. Fairfield Park History Board
  6. Persico, J.(27 May 2010) personal communication.
  7. Persico, J.(27 May 2010) personal communication.
  8. Imogen McCarthy. Nelson Provincial Museum
  9. Wastney, P.V and N.L. (1982), Roads of Yesterday. Nelson, NZ : Author
  10. Nelson City Council Street Index

Want to find out more about the Nelson Street Names ? View Further Sources here.

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  • Re Milton Grove, this article is partially correct. Milton Grove was the pathway than ran beside the Maitai river from Trafalgar St to Nile St. Records show that the name was probably in use up to about the 1930s.
    The name appears in an illustration in an NCC publication, Queens Gardens Landscape Conservation Plan, and crosses Bridge St where the bridge is now. Further documents show Milton Grove crossing the Brook Stream at its confluence with the Maitai River.
    Perhaps the name reflects where it runs - from the opposite bank at the west end of Grove St to about the point that Milton St would meet Nile St if it were continued beyond Hardy St.

    Posted by Alex Miller, 09/11/2013 9:23pm (11 years ago)

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Further sources - Nelson Street Names




  • Nelson City Council Road Naming Policy Draft. June 2010
  • Nelson City Council:  Nelson Street Name Index (document reference A1755166 or RAD 781719): available to view at Nelson Public Libraries/ Nelson City Council.
  • Nelson Settlement 1842 Map, Isel Park Records
  • Street Name History Project (1) 2004-2005. Isel Park Library Records. Subject File (S)-Street Names
  • Street Name History Project (1) 2004-2005. Isel Park Library Records. Subject File (S)-Street Names

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