MAPUA - A brief History

The discovery of middens, tools and human bones at Grossis Point indicate settlement by Maori in the archaic period (900AD-1450AD).

A summary of an address by Mr F.V. Knapp, on the Tasman Bay Maori, to the Science Branch of the Nelson Institute : No other area of New Zealand had such a variety of stone materials as Tasman, hence we find that there was abundance of implements made and new types were created. We also note the entire absence of evidence of cannibal feasts or of broken weapons, from which we infer that the ancient Maoris in the Tasman Bay district were peacefully inclined, and that they were seldom molested by more aggressive and warlike peoples of the North Island.

In the 1820's the Maori Chief Te Rauparaha come south with many of his warriors armed with muskets giving them a considerable advantage over an enemy with traditional weapons. After gaining control over the Marlborough region Te Rauparaha divided his forces and sent a contingent led by his 2IC Te Puoho to deal with Tasman and Golden Bays.

Although Te Puoho's raids took place at a time when European whalers were in contact with local Maori, very little detail survives to describe the war. Local residents did recount the defeat of Ngati Apa and Ngati Tumatakokiri at Te Mamaku pa, the butchery of panic-stricken families at Lower Moutere and Riwaka, and the pursuit of stragglers to their death in the Motueka Valley.

After the almost annihilation of the local Maori few of the invaders settled in the region, so that upon the arrival in the bay of Captain Arthur Wakefield on 8 October 1841, he found only a small Maori population occupying the land.

It was not until 1854 that the first land was bought in Mapua. Captain James S. Cross bought 166 acres comprising of most of the present township for 60 pounds! The first resident of Mapua was James Heatly who was on the electoral role in 1866. Although a fisherman, he later trapped rabbits and took them by boat to Nelson for sale. At a later date when rabbit destruction was being enforced, he was accused by a cantankerous neighbour, of breeding them instead of exterminating them.

A survey plan of the area now known as Mapua came out in 1912 under the name of Seaton Estate. A surveyor acquired part of the estate and subdivided into residential sections in 1914 under the name of Seaton Township. The port area was known as the Western Entrance until 1910 when Mr F.I. Ledger, who owned the flat area around the port, laid out the township and selected the name Mapua which, interpreted into English means 'abundance' or 'prolific'. In 1912 a Post Office had been opened with a telephone connection to Nelson and listed in 'The New Zealand Guide' as Mapua.

Around 1915 a substantial wharf had been completed though the lack of roading was causing much inconvenience. Mapua wharf was the logical point to ship out the now vast apple production in the Tasman area but it was not until the western connecting road had been put through the bluffs in Ruby Bay. The section from Appleby was also completed about this time linking Nelson and Motueka. There was a story that a surveyor was paid an extra pound for each corner; the road still being straightened to this day. The metalling of the last portion of the Appleby - Mapua was eventually completed in 1925 with the advent of the Emms Service Car bringing the mail daily.

 The community grew with a shop opening on the same site as the present one in 1921. Regular dances were held in the Mapua packing shed with music provided by the Mahana orchstra. In preparation Dick the horse was blindfolded and sacking was tied to his feet. He then dragged around a sack of oats until the floor became fit for dancing. Bill Argue used to take charge of Dick and carried a half kero-tin in case of emergencies. The whole district would turn out for these events of the year. Harold Williams of Nelson played the piano and the more refreshments he had the longer and better he played till the wee small hours.