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Nelson, New Zealand

Nelson is located on the eastern side of Tasman Bay at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. Nelson is named after the 1st Viscount Nelson.

Many people believe Nelson has the best climate in New Zealand, in that it regularly tops the national stats for sunshine hours, with an annual average total of over 2400 hours.

Nelson has good beaches and a sheltered harbour. It is close to mountains, Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park, and is the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and the Kahurangi National Park . The geographical Centre of New Zealand is said to be located in Nelson; on a hilltop suspiciously convenient to the centre of the city.

It is a centre for arts and crafts, and each year hosts popular events such as the Nelson Arts Festival and the World of WearableArt Awards. Nelson also has a good music scene, with bands such as Mother Guru, The Housewives, Monkey Puzzler and Everthirst performing regular gigs around the region.

Nelson is the birthplace of Ernest Rutherford, and he attended Nelson College.

The first rugby match in New Zealand was played at the Botanic Reserve in Nelson on May 14, 1870, between the Nelson Football Club and Nelson College.

The Nelson urban area, which includes the adjacent town of Richmond, has a population of approximately 50,000 - and is the second fastest growing region in New Zealand.

Early History of Nelson

The settlement of Nelson was planned by the New Zealand Company in London. They intended to buy cheaply from the Maori some 200 00 acres, 80 000 hectares, which would be divided into one thousand lots and sold at considerable profit to intending settlers. The orfits were to beused to finance the free passage of artisan and labourers and their families and for the construction of public works. However by September 1841 only about one third of the lots had been sold. Despite this the Colony pushed ahead.

Three ships sailed from London under the command of Captain Arthur Wakefield. Arriving in New Zealand they discovered that the new Governor of the colony, William Hobson was not prepared to give them a free hand to purchase vast areas of land from the Maori or indeed to decide where the colony would be situated. However after some delay he allowed the Company to investigate the Tasman Bay area at the north end of the South Island. The site now occupied by Nelson City was chosen because it had the best harbour in the area. The major drawback was the lack of suitable arable land; Nelson is right on the edge of a mountain range while the nearby Waimea Plains amount to only about 60 000 acres, less than one third of the area required by the Company plans.

A vague and undetermined area but including Nelson, Waimea, Motueka, Riwaka and Whakapuaka were peurchased from the Maori for eight hundred pounds. This allowed the settlment to begin but the lack of definition was to be the source of much future conflict. The three colony ships sailed into Nelson Haven during the first week of November 1841. When the first immigrant ships arrived three months later they found the town already laid out streets, some wooden houses, tents and rough sheds. Within eighteen months the Company had sent out eighteen ships with 1052 men, 872 women and 1384 children. However less than ninety of them were potential landowners with capital.

After a brief initial period of prosperity the inherent problems, the lack of land and the lack of capital caught up with the settletment and it entered prolonged period of relative depression. Organised immigration was suspended until the 1850's and the wages of the laborers was cut by a third. By the end of 1843 artisans and laborers began leaving Nelson and by 1846 some twenty five percent of the iimigrants had moved away.

The pressure to find more arable land was intense. To the south east of Nelson were the wide and fertile plains of the Wairau Valley. The New Zealand Company tried to claim that they had purchased the land. The Maori owners were quite adamant that the Wairau Valley had not been included in the original land sales and made it clear they would resist any attempts by the settlers of occupy the area. The Nelson Settlers lead by Arthur Wakefiled and Henry Thompson attempted to do just that. The result was the Wairau Massacre when twenty two of them were killed. The subsequent Government enquiry exonerated the Maori and found that the Nelson settlers had no legitimate claim to any land outside Tasman Bay.