Heritage, Culture & Arts

Marlborough’s rich history runs wide and deep, from the earliest Polynesian settlers on Te Pokohiwi-o-Kupe/Wairau, Bar to the European pioneers who built towns and planted our first grapevines.

These people, the way they lived, and how they dealt with history’s major events has shaped Marlborough into what it is today.

Those stories are all here, waiting to be discovered all over again in the places where they happened or in our galleries, museums, art and theatre productions.

Motuweka/Havelock Heritage

Before Havelock was settled as a gold rush town, it was a Māori pa named Motuweka.

The settlement was at the junction of two Māori trails from Waitohi/Picton and the Wairau.

Initially, a New Zealand Company party exploring the head of Te Hoiere/Pelorus Sound in 1838 dismissed Havelock as having little promise of a seaport.

But in 1854 another Company surveyor saw potential and asked the Kurahaupo chief, Hura Kopapa from Kaituna, to sell the land to allow for the development of a port and town. Having seen the results of other other iwi land sales he was reluctant, and also peacefully opposed the surveying of a road through his lands in 1851, but eventually relinquished to the sale. The people of Ngāti Kuia shifted to Canvastown, where Te Hora Marae remains today.

In 1863 prospectors struck gold in the nearby Wakamarina River, and Havelock quickly became an extensive service centre for thousands of miners.

The gold rush ended a year later, and settlers found work at sawmills locally and in the Marlborough Sounds.

In the 1930s a mailboat service began operating out of Havelock, providing a vital link to isolated Marlborough Sounds farms. The Pelorus Mail Boat continues that tradition today and offers tours to take visitors along for the mail run.

Havelock was home to two of the world’s greatest scientific minds – Ernest Rutherford and Sir William Pickering both grew up in the town.

Havelock is now a thriving township on the main road between Blenheim and Nelson, known for its local seafood. It has a variety of eateries and accommodation, along with a busy marina from where the mail boat, Greenshell Mussel Cruise and other local tours depart.

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