Tasman District

Tasman District (Māori: Te Tai o Aorere) is a local government district in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. It borders the Canterbury Region, West Coast Region, Marlborough Region and Nelson City. It is administered by the Tasman District Council, a unitary authority, which sits at Richmond, with community boards serving outlying communities in Motueka and Golden Bay / Mohua. The city of Nelson has its own unitary authority separate from Tasman District, and together they comprise a single region in some contexts, but not for local government functions or resource management (planning) functions.

Tasman District

Te Tai o Aorere
Territorial authority
Region of New Zealand
Maruia Falls
Location in the South Island
CountryNew Zealand
DistrictTasman District
  MayorTim King
  Total9,771 km2 (3,773 sq mi)
 (June 2020)[1]
  Density5.8/km2 (15/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
HDI (2017)0.911[2]
very high · 7th
WebsiteDistrict Council


Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere, the largest indentation in the north coast of the South Island, was named after Dutch seafarer, explorer and merchant Abel Tasman. He was the first European to discover New Zealand on 13 December 1642 while on an expedition for the Dutch East India Company. Tasman Bay passed the name on to the adjoining district, which was formed in 1989 largely from the merger of Waimea and Golden Bay counties.


Swing bridge at Buller River

According to tradition, the Māori waka Uruao, brought ancestors of the Waitaha people to Tasman in the 12th Century. Archaeological evidence suggests the first Māori settlers explored the region thoroughly, settling mainly along the coast where there was ample food.

The succession of tribes into the area suggests considerable warfare interrupted their lives. Around 1828, Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha and the allied northern tribes of Ngati Rarua and Ngati Tama, started their invasion of the South Island. They took over much of the area from Farewell Spit to the Wairau River.

The first immigrant ships from England arrived in Nelson in 1842 and the European settlement of the region began under the leadership of Captain Arthur Wakefield.

In the 1850s, agriculture and pastoral farming started and villages were established on the Waimea Plains and Motueka. In 1856, the discovery of gold near Collingwood sparked New Zealand's first gold rush. Significant reserves of iron ore were located at Onekaka, where an iron works operated during the 1920s and 1930s.

Fruit growing started at the end of the 19th Century. By 1945, it was making a significant contribution to the local economy and that importance continues today. The district council website says Tasman is also New Zealand's main hop growing area.


Tasman District is a large area at the western corner of the north end of the South Island of New Zealand. It covers 9,786 square kilometres and is bounded on the west by the Matiri Ranges, Tasman Mountains and the Tasman Sea.

To the north Tasman and Golden Bays form its seaward edge, and the eastern boundary extends to the edge of Nelson city, and includes part of the Spencer Mountains and the Saint Arnaud and Richmond Ranges. The Victoria Ranges form Tasman's southern boundary and the district's highest point is Mount Franklin, at 2,340 metres.

The landscape is diverse, from large mountainous areas to valleys and plains, and is sliced by such major rivers as the Buller, Motueka, Aorere, Tākaka and Wairoa. The limestone-rich area around Mount Owen and Mount Arthur is notable for its extensive cave networks, among them New Zealand's deepest caves at Ellis Basin and Nettlebed. There is abundant bush and bird life, golden sand beaches, the unique 40-kilometre sands of Farewell Spit, and good fishing in the bays and rivers. These assets make the district a popular destination for tourists.

Tasman is home to three national parks: Abel Tasman National Park (New Zealand's smallest at 225.41 km²), Nelson Lakes National Park (1,017.53 km²) and Kahurangi National Park (4,520 km²).

The Maruia Falls, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) southwest of Murchison were created by the 1929 Murchison earthquake when a slip blocked the original channel.


Tasman District's estimated resident population is 56,400 (June 2020)[1] representing 1.1% of New Zealand's population.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [3][4]
A map showing population density in Tasman District and Nelson City at the 2006 census.

Tasman Region had a population of 52,389 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 5,232 people (11.1%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 7,764 people (17.4%) since the 2006 census. There were 19,545 households. There were 26,028 males and 26,361 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.99 males per female. Of the total population, 9,534 people (18.2%) were aged up to 15 years, 7,626 (14.6%) were 15 to 29, 24,258 (46.3%) were 30 to 64, and 10,974 (20.9%) were 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 92.6% European/Pākehā, 8.7% Māori, 1.6% Pacific peoples, 2.8% Asian, and 2.0% other ethnicities.(totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The percentage of people born overseas was 18.8, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 58.7% had no religion, 30.2% were Christian, and 3.3% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 7,479 (17.5%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 8,394 (19.6%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $28,800. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 20,061 (46.8%) people were employed full-time, 7,623 (17.8%) were part-time, and 1,038 (2.4%) were unemployed.[3]

The main iwi represented in the wider Tasman region are Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama (Golden Bay / Mohua and Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere), Te Atiawa, Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia (eastern Tasman Bay / Te Tai-o-Aorere) and the Poutini Ngāi Tahu (southern areas).

In Tasman District, German is the second most-spoken language after English, whereas in the rest of New Zealand Māori is the second most-spoken language.[5]

Famous former residents include the "father of nuclear physics" Sir Ernest Rutherford, former Prime Ministers Bill Rowling and Sir Keith Holyoake, and Sir Michael Myers, Chief Justice of New Zealand 1929–1946.

Urban areas and settlements

The Tasman District has six towns with a population over 1,000. Together they are home to 58.9% of the district's population.[1]

Urban area Population
(June 2020)[1]
 % of region
Richmond 17,250 30.6%
Motueka 8,420 14.9%
Wakefield 2,550 4.5%
Brightwater 2,250 4.0%
Tākaka 1,390 2.5%
Mapua 1,360 2.4%

Other towns and settlements include the following:


    Tasman District Council (unitary authority) headquarters are at Richmond, close to the adjoining Nelson City, which is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) further north. The head of local government is the mayor. Community Boards exist to serve outlying areas in Motueka and Golden Bay.


    The sub-national GDP of the Nelson region (Tasman District and Nelson City) was estimated at US$2.343 billion in 2003, 2% of New Zealand's national GDP.[6]


    1. "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
    2. "Sub-national HDI – Area Database – Global Data Lab". hdi.globaldatalab.org. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
    3. "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Tasman Region (16). 2018 Census place summary: Tasman Region
    4. "2001 Census: Regional summary". archive.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
    5. "2013 Census QuickStats about a place:Tasman District". Statistic New Zealand. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
    6. "Regional Gross Domestic Product". Statistics New Zealand. 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2010.