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Our stories: The history of Motueka

These pages are dedicated to the history of the town and nearby areas. Articles are provided by history buffs, part-time writers and ordinary folk who have stories to tell about people and events from the past. Please browse the topics below. And please consider adding to the collection.

We welcome any articles and contributions you may have, which you can send by email or by contacting us to sort out how you can get stories, photos etc to us to put on the website. You can also comment on any of the articles that are on these pages already, if you have something further to add to them - if so, simply go to the end of the article and click on the "Comment" link.

Those with a strong interest in the history of Motueka and the surrounding area should also look at the work done, and meetings and programmes hosted, by the Motueka and Districts Historical Association »

Questions & Answers  

Got a question about the history of something in town? Ask the questions you've always wondered about, and reply to questions to which you know the answers (or can help). View questions and answers here »

History articles:

Te Maatu: Some Early Perspectives
(from various sources)
Descriptions of Te Maatu in the period around 1840, and its importance to our whanau ki Motueka, feature vividly in the diaries and journals of some of the early European settlers.   Full article »

History of the Ryder family from Riwaka
(by John Ryder)
One of the earliest settlers in the Motueka/Riwaka area, William Ryder, is featured in a detailed and fascinating online memoir as part of the Ryder family history.   Full article »

History of beer at the Riwaka Hotel
(by Coralie Smith)
The Motueka Historical Association year has come to an end with a delicious luncheon at the Riwaka Hotel and a talk given by Tom Inglis on the history of beer.   Full article »

Motueka Cool Store destroyed by fire
The New Zealand Apple and Pear Board's new cool store at Motueka, which cost £125,000 and had a storage capacity of 100,000 cases of fruit, was destroyed by a fire which was first noticed at 4.30 o'clock this morning.   Full article »

The history and operation of Rothmans' tobacco factory
A big crowd of about 30 people attended the Motueka Historical Association's October meeting last Saturday to hear Geoff Tillson's recount the history of the Rothmans Tobacco Company factory.   Full article »

100 Years of firefighting by the Motueka Volunteer Fire Brigade
Stuart Blathwayt has written a comprehensive history of the fire brigade to mark the centenary celebrations on October 2012. This account includes some of the many photos that Stuart has collected of fire events over the period.   Full article »

The history of Motueka's electricity supplies
In 1929 the Waimea Electric Power Board was formed and almost immediately absorbed the Brightwater and Motueka plants, adding a hydroelectric scheme in the Brooklyn Valley in 1934. Over in isolated Golden Bay, the Golden Bay Electric Power Board was formed in 1925, which commissioned the Pupu hydroelectric scheme in 1929.   Full article »

Potted History of Murchison
Most people see Murchison as a place you have your first loo stop at on the way to Christchurch or the last break and cuppa on the way home again. Although you can now travel by car to Murchsion from Motueka in an hour and a half this has only come about in the last few years.   Full article »

The history of the Motueka Municipal Band
(by Coralie Smith)
Brian Hickmott has been a member of the Brass Band under its various names for 67 years, 25 of them as conductor. He joined while still at school during World War 2 when the band was under the auspices of the Motueka Borough Council. The band had gone into recess with many of the band members serving overseas. The instruments belonged to the council and were in storage. Full article »

The life of Private William Arthur Ham, from Ngatimoti
(by Anne McFadgen)
The ANZACs were formed at Gallipoli, right? Wrong. Although they first fought as a unit at Gallipoli, the Australia and New Zealand Corps was created several months earlier in Egypt, where a short, fiercely contested battle between the Allies and Turkish forces for control of the Suez Canal gave the New Zealanders their first taste of war. Full article »

Fruit, tobacco and hops
(from NZ Archives)
Selwyn Toogood visited Motueka in the 1960s, talking with townspeople, farmers and casual workers about life in the wealthy Motueka district, where fruit, hops and tobacco are grown. This 17-minute video was released in May 2012 on YouTube from the archives.

Museum building prepares for big historical milestones
(by Pauline Westall)
The Motueka District Museum and Motueka High School will celebrate common milestones within the coming year. The old brick building that houses the museum will be 100 years old in 2013 and the museum will have been open to the public for 25 years in November.   Full article »

Back in time for hops and apple growers
(from the Historical Association)
Hops and apples are ready for harvest once again, and as the growers strive to bring in their crops and make a living, the Motueka and District Historical Association visited two private properties where the history of these industries are being preserved by two stalwarts who have worked in both of them most of their lives.   Full report plus photos from this meeting here »

The History of the Sprig & Fern, formerly Harts Bake House
(from the Historical Association)
When Harry and Bertha Hart opened their modern bakery in 1925 behind Bedford House at 191 High Street which housed their residence, cake and tea shop, little would they know that 87 years later there would be a lane named for them and that the bake house would be a community bar popular with locals after being in operation for only a year.   Full report plus photos from this meeting here »

The History of Fearon's Bush
by Sue Clark, first published in The Guardian
Fearons Street and Fearons Bush were named after Captain Edward Fearon who, from 1844, owned the land and magnificent natural forest which he reserved for the people of the district. Edward Fearon was a highly successful mariner and pioneer farmer. He and his brother bought a Motueka section for 200 pounds and built a magnificent two-storey house known as Northwood with its stately avenue of oaks and poplars to the house outlining the driveway. Full article »

The History of McNabb Motors
(from the Historical Association)
Brian Hickmott took us down memory lane on Saturday when he talked to the Motueka and District Historical Association about the business of McNabb & Co Ltd of which he was the last proprietor. In 1979, when Brian was approached by GUS grocery wholesalers, who wanted to purchase the site to build a new supermarket, the building needed a major overhaul as it was built in the 1920s and only the frontages were modern.   Full report plus photos from this meeting here »

The History of 27 Tudor Street
Lynda Papesch has written in the Nelson Mail this account of one of the oldest houses in Motueka, which has played host to some of the town's most entrepreneurial pioneers. Read the full text of this feature article in the Stuff website, by clicking here.

The History of the Motueka Saltwater Baths
by Sue Clark, first published in The Guardian
The presence of sharks near Port Motueka was no doubt a factor in the formation of a local group called the Safe Bathing Society, of which Amie Talbot, a long time resident of Motueka, was the main instigator and president. The group was formed in about 1930 with the aim of achieving a safer place to play and swim in the sea. To this end, they set about raising funds to build the first swimming enclosure or 'baths' at the Motueka beach. Full article »

Stanley Brook and Tapawera
(from the Historical Association)
We left Decks Reserve for our day out in Tapawera. Viv Barker was there to greet us as we called in first at the old Stanley Brook School building, which we whizz past on the way to the West Coast or Christchurch but never stop to look at closely. The soil wasn't really suitable for stock but the pioneers persevered and a thriving community once lived in this isolated spot.   Full report plus photos from this meeting here »

The History of Port Motueka
by Sue Clark, first published in The Guardian
Manuka Bush Harbour, also known as Murphy's Harbour, was situated at the eastern end of Staples Street and was the first port in Motueka. The primitive jetty was erected within the inlet of sea near the delta of the Motueka River. Some Manuka trees growing close to the jetty became a landmark and a beacon for seamen. Schooners unloaded in shallow water before the wharf was built. Full article »

Information sought to fill gaps in Lower Moutere history
by Coralie Smith
There is an area of our district that is lacking in any sort of comprehensive study and that is the Lower Moutere area. The Motueka and District Historical Association addressed this problem when they met at George and Gwen Bunn's property. Full article, photos »

The Depression Years 1929 to 1940
(from the Historical Association)
Many of the members who talked at the September Historical Association meeting were born just as the depression started to make itself felt and only one or two had actual personal memories of that time. Most had to draw on what was passed down through family stories and the lasting attitudes of their parents to money, savings and caring for their families and neighbours.   Full report from this meeting here »

Appo Hocton, New Zealand's First Chinese Immigrant, 1842 - 1920
(from the Historical Association)
Diana Clark, a descendant of Appo Hocton, researched her great grandfather and although a book has been written about him considers the book as a work in progress. Diana talked very enthusiastically and with great feeling about her forebear.   Full report from this meeting here »

Frosty Goodall and his latest book "Melody Fingers and Dancing Feet"
(from the Historical Association)
Frosty Goodall talked about his latest book "Melody Fingers and Dancing Feet" and his previous three publications pointing out some of the do's and don't's of publishing. He related some of the things that happened at dances and the local people involved in dance bands.   Full report from this meeting here »

Celebration of Historical Association's 30th birthday
(from the Historical Association)
The latest AGM was held and many of those attending were there at the first meeting 30 years ago. They must get an award for commitment and tenacity!! Eileen Thawley and Sydney Daughtrey then gave us an informative talk on the war memorial project.   Photos and report from this meeting here »

Gold on the Tablelands
(from the Historical Association)
Mining has taken place in several places in the Nelson region, the most unusual or remote being the tablelands between Mt Arthur and the Cobb and the ranges further south and west. Rough, rugged country which had hundreds of miners camped in huts and tents during the years of the depression. Full article »

Historic and prominent family names in Motueka
(By Patsy O'Shea)
This list of 39 names, based on prominent and historic members of the Motueka community, was put together and submitted to TDC in 2004 when a number of subdivisions were sprouting in the district and people were looking for suitable names for new streets. View the list here »

Historic House makes way for industry
(a request from the Historical Association)
The Motueka Historical Association is appealing for information that may help build a history of the old house in King Edward Street owned by the Underwood family, which was recently demolished for industry. Industry has always been a part of the area of King Edward Street where Alpha Precast has its yard. Full article »

A History of Riwaka Wharf and Shipping
(by H. N. Murray)
This article was published in the Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 2, Issue 6, April 1973, and has been reproduced and abridged here thanks to the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC - At Riwaka wharf some early history of shipping in the district is of interest. The small port served the local community for a hundred years, and included some operations concerned with the initial landings at Astrolabe Roads of the Expedition vessels in October, 1841. Full article »

Motueka Place Names
(by H. N. Murray)
This article was published in the Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 2, Issue 6, April 1973, and has been reproduced and abridged here thanks to the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC - It explains the origins of Jubilee Bridge, Moutere River, NZ Company's Ditch, Wildman Road, Motueka's Present Wharf, M.V. Wairau, The Old Wharf, The Gables, SS Janie Seddon, Fearon Street and Bush, Tudor Street, Greenwood Street and many more Motueka places. Full article »

From Granite to Golden Sands - History of Kaiteriteri Beach
(by Sue Clark)
Kaiteriteri Beach is man made and the events leading up to its 'manufacture' make intriguing reading. Details of Kaiteriteri from 1841 to about 1900 have been sketchy but for a long period Kaiteriteri was owned by G. Daniells, a retired British army major but there is no evidence that he actually took up residence there. From about 1910 onwards the history of Kaiteriteri is better documented. Full article »

Roger "Snow" Finlay and the history of the Takaka Hill Road
(by Murray Owen)
Roger "Snow" Finlay certainly earned his passage as the principal machine operator for Transport Nelson and Fuel and Freight on several roading excavations in the region, from 1947 to 1983. For years the often maligned Takaka Hill road, with its myriad of turns, was a constant force in Snow's working life. He was at the coalface of all the developments, with a modern, reasonably fast road emerging from the narrow, challenging 'goat track' that it was in places. Full article »

History of Phyllis Harriet Moffatt (nee Win) and the Win family
(by Aroha Moffatt and Sue Clark)
In 1973 the Geriatric Hospital was renamed the "Phyllis Moffatt Memorial Hospital" and thereby perpetuating her name in Motueka's history - a fitting tribute to the long and valuable service she gave the Nelson Hospital Board and the Hospital of Motueka. She was a founding member in the establishment of a hospital in Motueka in the first place. Full article »