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The History of Fearon's Bush

Posted October 7th, 2011
by Sue Clark, first published in The Guardian on September 21st 2011.

Fearon Street and Fearon's 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. (The Inglis family home now stands on the site.)

Edward was a very public spirited man, he generously gave land for the Oddfellows Hall (where the Tasman Motor Hotel now stands) and land for the first St Thomas' Church in Thorp Street and the first public library in the Motueka Institute (where the RSA now stands). He was no doubt a wealthy man and owned the first wheeled-passenger vehicle in the Motueka district.

By 1851 he had become a member of the committee for the Richmond Cattle Fair, the forerunner of the A & P Association. Motueka Borough Council purchased the Fearon's Bush area back in 1914, but it was only after the Second World War that it was used as a camping ground. During the 1920s and 1930s it was used as a domain and picnic ground and one of the highlights of the year was the New Year's Day Caledonian sports.

Fearon's Bush Motor Camp in Motueka took a big step forward with the arrival of six cabins, the first cabin accommodation at the camp. The cabins came from the electricity division of the Ministry of Energy which has been using them at a camp at Speargrass Flat near Lake Rotoiti. They were fitted with metal rings that makes it a simple job for them to be lifted off a truck and onto a new site as they were on Monday. The cabins increased the range of accommodation that could be offered in town at a camp that not only has beautiful native trees, but important historic links.

Fearon's Bush is a fitting memorial to a public spirited man who did much in the establishment of early Motueka. Part of his property was the area with a varied stand of native trees where the camp is now situated. This area was purchased by the Motueka District Council in 1914 and became a public reserve and recreation ground. Toilets were put in place in 1967 and the area can be compared to that of Thorps Bush.

Fearon's Bush entrance in 1921

The area was very basic and was open to the public for camping during the summer months December to mid-February. In the 1970s a full time camp caretaker, Mr Simpson, lived across the road from Fearon's Bush Camp and was employed by the Borough Council to collect the designated fee each day from the campers.

The Motueka Borough Council, Richmond Borough Council, Waimea Council and Golden Bay Council were amalgamated to become the Tasman District Council in 1989 and the Tasman District Council then took over the running of the camp.

In Mid 1990 the camp was leased out to Michael Miles, a local businessman, on a commercial basis. When this lease became renewable, the lease was sold to Doug Levien who became the first proprietor of the TOP10 Holiday Park in 2001 Doug Levien, Jeanette's father and two years later 2003 Steve and Jeanette took over the present lease.

Many changes and additions have occurred since 2003. Jen and Steve built four new self contained units over a period of eight weeks and were still hanging curtain on Xmas Eve when the customers were checking in. That year they also built a new office.

The following year saw four more units, a spa pool and a jumping pillow added to the complex. In 2006 a longer lease was negotiated with the council and in 2007 the 100,000 litre pool was built. A large kitchen and dining and new conference centre was added in 2009.

Bed nights have grown from 13,000 in 2003 to 50,000 in 2010. The Park was awarded 5 Stay Holiday Park status in 2009 and that year won the Best TOP10 Holiday Park in New Zealand and in 2010 they came second overall in customer service.

The conference centre has been performing well and has hosted a number of multi day and single day conference including the NZRFU, the Uniting Church, Milnes Beatson & Associates and Zespri to name but a few.

Fearon Street which was open paddock land last year is also becoming an established area. A couple of months ago there were no houses. And now - one is complete, three are in the process of being built and no doubt all the remaining sections will have houses on them in the very near future. One wonders what Captain Edward Fearon would make of all of this activity!

Comment by Lindsay J. Cattermole:
[Posted 24 June 2016]

I lived across the road from Fearon's bush in the 1950s, as children we spent many hours playing there. In those days it was quite a wilderness and one could get lost for a while in the dense bush. In the north west corner there was a croquet green, the only clear area. There was a deep overflow channel running through the bush which often had water in it when the Motueka river was in flood, before the stop banks were built. The bush gave us many great memories.

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