Nelson Province

Nelson Province was constituted in 1853 under the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, and originally covered the entire upper South Island, including all of present-day Buller, Kaikoura, Marlborough, and Tasman districts, along with Nelson City, Grey District north of the Grey River, and the Hurunui District north of the Hurunui River. It was reduced in size by the creation of Marlborough Province in November 1859, then abolished in 1876, along with all the provinces of New Zealand.

Nelson Province
The Nelson Province as constituted in 1853
Coat of arms
Palmam qui meruit ferat Latin Let him, who has earned it, bear the palm
Country New Zealand
Provinces of New ZealandNelson Province
Named forHoratio Nelson
Nelson Provincial CouncilNelson
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
For the current top-level subdivision of Nelson in New Zealand, see Nelson, New Zealand


Map showing the area that split away to form Marlborough Province in 1859

Nelson Province initially covered the entire upper South Island. The Marlborough Province split away from the Nelson Province on 1 November 1859 because the majority of the income of the Provincial Council came from land sales in the Marlborough region, but the funds were mostly used in the Nelson region. Land sales in Nelson and Marlborough netted the Nelson Provincial Council £33,000 and £160,000, respectively. Of that, £200 were expended benefiting the Marlborough region.[1] There was considerable conflict between Superintendent John Perry Robinson's policies of supporting smaller land holders, and the objectives of the large pastoral run-holders in the Wairau Valley. The New Provinces Act 1858 allowed for parts of a province to break away if the area was large enough, and enough voters supported such a move. The petition was signed by almost all settlers in the Wairau; only six withholding their support for a split. The new Marlborough Province was gazetted on 4 October 1859.[2]

For perspective, the Marlborough Province took with it the areas of Nelson Province that would later form five administrative areas when the provinces were dissolved in 1876: Blenheim Borough, covering 17.7 km2 (6.8 sq mi); Picton Borough, covering 4.2 km2 (1.6 sq mi); Kaikoura County, covering 2,348 km2 (907 sq mi); and Marlborough County, covering 10,478 km2 (4,046 sq mi), which includes the former Sounds County, the area immediately surrounding the borough of Picton, which amalgamated with Marlborough County prior to 1913 due to insufficient population to ever form its own county council.[3]


Nelson Provincial Council buildings

The Nelson Provincial Council was established with fifteen members, and the Province was divided into seven Electoral Districts for the election of the Superintendent and members of the Provincial Council. These districts were: Town of Nelson, five members; Suburban Districts, one member; Waimea East District, two members; Waimea West District, one member; Waimea South District, two members; Motueka and Massacre Bay District, two members; Wairau District, two members.[4]

The election of Nelson's first superintendent was contested by three candidates; Edward Stafford, Francis Jollie and John Waring Saxton. The election took place on 1 August 1853 and resulted in Edward Stafford being Nelson's first superintendent. The final results for the election were: Stafford (251), Saxton (206) and Jollie (130). Edward Stafford will be remembered for his free, secular and compulsory education system became the model for New Zealand, with this ‘Nelson system’ introduced to all state primary schools in 1877.

Nelson was the designated seat of government and Superintendent John Perry Robinson laid the foundation stone for the Provincial Government buildings in Nelson on 26 August 1859.[5] The building was in Albion Square in Bridge Street. It was designed by visiting architect Maxwell Bury and he modeled it on Aston Hall near Birmingham. Whereas Aston Hall was built from stone, the Government buildings were from timber. The buildings were run down and had stood empty for some years when they were demolished in 1969, amidst much controversy. The Nelson District Court building now stands on the site.[6]

During the First Taranaki War in 1860 nearly 1,200 Taranaki settlers including women and children were relocated to Nelson. The Nelson Provincial Council funded the building of cottages known as the "Taranaki Buildings" for the housing of these refugees. Upon the cessation of hostilities the war refugees were offered free passage back to Taranaki, the majority took advantage of this offer but some elected to remain in Nelson.

During the period 1853 to 1873, the area that would become Grey County was administered as part of both Nelson Province and Canterbury Province (the Canterbury portion was transferred to a newly created Westland Province in 1873).[7] The boundary between the provinces had been set as a straight line from the head of the Hurunui River to Lake Brunner at a time when the area was virtually uninhabited, but the West Coast Gold Rush then straddled that boundary, with a population boom also straddling the boundary.[7] In 1866, there had been a proposal for the portions in Canterbury Province, including the urban area of Greymouth and the rural area south, to be annexed and solely administered by Nelson Province.[8]


Nelson Province was abolished under the Abolition of Provinces Act 1875, with its former area then being administered by a number of newly constituted boroughs and counties, effective January 1, 1877.

Borough / CountyEstablishedDisestablishedArea[9]HeadquartersNotes
Amuri County1876198911,000 km2CulverdenMerged into Hurunui District
Buller County1876198915,000 km2WestportMerged into Buller District
Cheviot County18761989847.28 km2CheviotMerged into Hurunui District
Collingwood County18761956In 1903, the Government of New Zealand voted to reduce the original Collingwood County to its western Aorere area, with the eastern area being constituted as Takaka County, effective April 1904.[10] The two counties were re-amalgamated in 1956 to form Golden Bay County,[11] which merged into Tasman District in 1989.
Grey County187619894,091 km2GreymouthMerged, along with Greymouth Borough, to form Grey District
Inangahua County187619892,440.8 km2ReeftonMerged into Buller District
Motueka Borough1900 [12]198947.9 km2MotuekaMerged into Tasman District
Murchison County1 April 1909 [13]1989MurchisonMerged into Tasman District
Richmond Borough1891 [14]198910.52 km2RichmondMerged into Tasman District
Takaka County1904[10][15]1956TakakaCreated from eastern portion of original area of Collingwood County in 1904.[10] Re-amalgamated with Collingwood County to form Golden Bay County,[11] which merged into Tasman District in 1989.
Waimea County187619897,547 km2RichmondMerged into Tasman District
Westport Borough1873 [14]19893.44 km2WestportMerged into Buller District

Anniversary day

New Zealand law provides for a provincial anniversary day.

Provincial district includes Actual day Observance day
Nelson Nelson, Tasman, Buller and parts of North Canterbury 1 February Monday nearest to the actual day


Model of the Nelson Provincial Government building on display in the Nelson Provincial Museum (building existed 1859–1969)

The Nelson Province had four Superintendents:[16]

No. from to Superintendent
1 1 August 1853 Sep 1856 Edward Stafford
2 12 December 1856 28 January 1865 John Perry Robinson
3 Mar 1865 4 February 1867 Alfred Saunders
4 Apr 1867 1 January 1877 Oswald Curtis

Elected members

Name From To Electorate
Acton Adams 1873 1876 Nelson
John Barnicoat 1853 1861
William Cautley 1853 1854 Waimea
Oswald Curtis 1857 1867
Nathaniel Edwards 1868 1869 Nelson
Nathaniel Edwards 1875 1876 Nelson
George Horne 1868 1869 Grey
Joseph Ivess 21 January 1873 31 October 1876 Inangahua
Carl Friederich Christian Kelling 1862 1869 Moutere
Carl Friederich Christian Kelling 1869 1873 Waimea West
Fedor Kelling 1857 1876 Waimea East
David Luckie 1869 1873
James Mackay 1857 1861 Nelson
Charles Parker 1853 1857 Motueka and Massacre Bay
Albert Pitt 1867 1876 Nelson
Richard Reeves 28 April 1876 31 October 1876 Grey
James Crowe Richmond
John Perry Robinson 1853 1865 Motueka and Massacre Bay
William Robinson 5 October 1857 2 April 1859 Amuri
Andrew Rutherford 1869 1871 Amuri
Alfred Saunders 1855 1865 Waimea East
John Sharp Waimea East
John Sharp Amuri
Edward Stafford 1 August 1853 September 1856
Samuel Stephens 19 June 1854 26 June 1855 Town of Nelson
William Travers 1853 1854 Town of Nelson
Thomas Henry Wigley


  • Nelson Education Act 1856[17]
  • Nelson Improvement Act 1856[18]
  • Nelson Institution Act 1859[19]
  • Nelson Waterworks Act 1863[20]
  • Nelson Waterworks Act Amendment Act 1875[21]

Subordinate boards

  • Nelson Central Board of Education[22]
  • Nelson Board of Works[23]

Adjacent provinces

See also


  1. "Superintendents Of Marlborough". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts. Christchurch: Cyclopedia Company Limited. 1906. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  2. "The separation of Nelson and Marlborough". The Prow. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  3. Rice, Geoffrey (2005). "Black November: the 1918 influenza pandemic". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. University of Canterbury Press. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  4. The Jubilee History of Nelson by L. Broad.
  5. Broad, Lowther (1892). The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892. Nelson: Bond, Finney, and Co. pp. 121–22. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  6. Explanatory panel next to a model of the Government buildings in the Nelson Colonial Museum.
  7. McLintock, A. H., ed. (23 April 2009) [First published in 1966]. "Westland Province and Provincial District". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  8. "Proposal to Join the Grey District to Nelson Province". Grey River Argus. 21 March 1866. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  9. Unless otherwise noted, area is per 1986 boundaries
  10. "Collingwood County Bill 1903 (143-1) (Local)". Government of New Zealand. 1903. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  11. "Collingwood County Council". National Register of Archives and Manuscripts. Archives New Zealand. 4 August 2006. Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  12. "MOTUEKA". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  14. Fraser, Bryce; McLauchlan, Gordon (1986). The New Zealand Book of Events. Auckland: Methuen Publishing. ISBN 978-0474001239. Note that dates given in this book appear to be the date of the first municipal corporation (city, borough or town district)
  15. Cyclopedia Company Limited (1906). The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts. Victoria University of Wellington. Wellington: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 5 November 2018.
  16. "Provinces 1848–77". Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  17. "Papers Past — Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle — 29 March 1856 — EDUCATION ACT. [March 26, 1856.]". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  18. "Papers Past — Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle — 26 April 1856 — NELSON IMPROVEMENT ACT". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  19. "Papers Past — Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle — 23 July 1859 — NELSON INSTITUTE ACT". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  20. "Nelson Waterworks Act 1863". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  21. "Nelson Waterworks Act Amendment Act 1875 (N)". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  22. "Education in Nelson 1842–2002". Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  23. "Nelson Board of Works". Retrieved 27 February 2015.