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The History of Port Motueka

Posted March 14th, 2011
Written by Sue Clark and first published in The Guardian in February 2011.

The importance of the Port for the Motueka community is clearly reflected in its history and is outlined as follows - not necessarily in chronological order.

1842-1856: 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.

1856-1916: A wooden wharf was erected at Doctors Creek Harbour, a mile south of Manuka Bush Harbour.

1844: Residents of the district called for a better wharf and the formation of a Harbour Board.

1887: Waimea County Council started work on replacing the wharf with a more substantial one.

1902: Motueka Wharf Board was constituted.

1905: The Motueka Harbour Board replaced the Motueka Wharf Board.

1908: A scheme to improve the harbour, which included the deepening of the channel at a cost of 13,000 pounds, was proposed but the plan did not proceed.

1909: A scheme for building a new wharf at the northern entrance to the Moutere Inlet was proposed.

1910: Plans for a new wharf were accepted and a loan for 20,000 pounds to construct the wharf were approved by an overwhelming majority of ratepayers, and the contract was let.

1916: The opening of the new wharf was held on February 14th at Moutere Inlet and the old wharf was closed to the public on 27th April.

1916-2000: The site of the wharf was on the tidal Moutere Inlet so a channel about three quarters of a mile long with a depth of four feet at low Spring Tide was dredged from the seaward end. A causeway between High Street South and the wharf was constructed over the estuary.

The wharf was originally built of wood. The breastwork and all the timber in contact with the sea water was Heart Totara, the stringers Tasmanian Bluegum and the decking Heart of Red Birch. The decking wood was transferred from the old Wharf and in the late 1920s it was rebuilt in concrete. A reinforced concrete building 100ft x 30ft provided storage for fruit, office accommodation, a harbour board meeting room and a ladies waiting room and toilet.

The Harbour Board bought 20 acres of the adjacent land and leased it to Motueka Cool Storage, Nelson Marble Company (using marble quarried at Ngaru Takaka Hill), Nelson District Fruit Packers and Irvine and Stevenson who produced jam and canned fruits.

1926-1956: An increase in trade due in the main to the district being the most intensely farmed in New Zealand. In 1956, 10 ships visited in one month making 44 visits.

1962: The Rail Ferry service across Cook Strait and improved facilities at Port Nelson, combined with Baigents Mill closure in July 1968, saw the demise of the Port of Motueka. In 1968 only seven visits by the Te Aroha and the Portland finally made it completely uneconomic to run Port Motueka as a trading port.

In 1936 Ivan Peter Talijancich (later known as Ivan Talley) established a small seafood business in Motueka which has grown to be the largest enterprise at the port today. The Talley's Group is a multi-division, privately owned, international company that has stood the test of time, providing employment to the community and leading the way in fisheries development and management.

It is still owned and operated by the Talley family, with second and third generation family members taking an active part in its operation.




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