Nelson Boulder Bank Historic Area

Boulder Bank, The Glen (Glenduan) To Fifeshire/Arrow Rock, Nelson

  • Nelson Boulder Bank Historic Area. 2001 View looking north towards Mackay Bluff with Haulashore Island in the foreground.
    Copyright: Paul Rasmussen. Taken By: Paul Rasmussen.
  • Nelson Boulder Bank Historic Area. Fifeshire Rock. CC BY-ND 2.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Mike Locke. Taken By: Mike Locke. Date: 10/05/2008.
  • Nelson Boulder Bank Historic Area. The Lighthouse and keeper's residence complex at it's most extensive c.1910. Image courtesy of Nelson Provincial Museum, F.N Jones Collection 1/1-009414-G.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington . Taken By: Frederick Nelson Jones.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7821 Date Entered 29th August 2013 Date of Effect 29th August 2013


Extent of List Entry

This historic area consists of an area of land that contains a group of inter-related historic places. The identified historic places that contribute to the values in this historic area are the Nelson Boulder Bank lighthouse and lighthouse station remains (O27/150); Nelson Boulder Bank baches; O27/50 Midden; O27/52 Midden; O27/146 Midden; O27/147 Midden and historic artefacts; O27/148 Midden; O27/149 Historic midden; O27/51 Midden; O27/13 Midden and ovens; O27/144 Powder Magazine; O27/162 Wharf; O27/163 Foundations of building and winch; O27/153 Original part of Haulashore Island; O27/151 Midden and argillite roughout findspot; O27/152 Cultural soils and shell; O27/56 Shell midden; and unrecorded shipwreck remains of at least ten ships known to have been wrecked within the area (Refer to Appendix 1 for maps of these historic places and to Appendix 6 of the Registration Report for further information).

The area of land that encompasses these historic places extends to the marine depth (5 metre) contour along the outside of the Boulder Bank. The boundary of this area is shown in the Extent of Registration Map in Appendix 1 of the Registration Report. The land within this historic area boundary is described as Pt Sec 1, Secs 2 and 3 SO 14733 (NZ Gazette 1992, p. 2186); Sec 1132 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL55/205); Secs 1-7 SO 15161 (NZ Gazette 1994 p. 2793); Lot 1 DP 14762 (NL9B/576); Sec 1100 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL72/175); Sec 1099MR CITY OF Nelson (NZ Gazette 1958 p. 1379); Secs 1097-1098 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL72/176); Pt Sec G CITY OF Nelson (NZ Gazette 1962 p. 594, see GN 83553); ARROW Rock Crown Land (under action) CITY OF Nelson; Pt Seabed; Nelson Land District.

Within the boundary of the historic area there are places that do not contribute to the values of the historic area and are therefore excluded from the group of inter-related historic places that form this historic area. These places include NZAA sites O27/11 and O27/12 which have insufficient location evidence to support an assessment of archaeological significance, and the dredged navigation channel through the Cut (as shown on the LINZ chart NZ6142 of Port Nelson which identifies the channel's location, width and depth as at August 2013) because any remains of shipwrecks are likely to have been removed from this shipping channel. (Refer to Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Nelson City


Nelson Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 1, Secs 2 and 3 SO 14733 (NZ Gazette 1992, p. 2186); Sec 1132 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL55/205); Secs 1-7 SO 15161 (NZ Gazette 1994 p. 2793); Lot 1 DP 14762 (NL9B/576); Sec 1100 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL72/175); Sec 1099MR CITY OF Nelson (NZ Gazette 1958 p. 1379); Secs 1097-1098 CITY OF Nelson (RT NL72/176); Pt Sec G CITY OF Nelson (NZ Gazette 1962 p. 594, see GN 83553); ARROW Rock Crown Land (under action) CITY OF Nelson; Pt Seabed, Nelson Land District.

Location description

The Boulder Bank beach formation runs along the foot of the extensive cliff-face of Mackay Bluff (though this mainland component is often not identified as being part of the Boulder Bank proper). The Boulder Bank spit formation commences at the southern end of Mackay Bluff, next to the small settlement of the Glen (Glenduan). From here the Bank continues southwards as a border to the reclaimed Wakapuaka Flats. It then splits off from the mainland and stretches as a lineal spit approximately 1-2 kilometres offshore, dividing Tasman Bay to the northwest from the lagoon of Nelson Haven in the southeast. Its southern termination is Haulashore Island, to the south of Port Nelson. Arrow/Fifeshire Rock lies to the immediate south of Haulashore Island, not far offshore of Rocks Road on the mainland.


The Nelson Boulder Bank (the Bank) is a long coastal spit which lies a few kilometres offshore of Nelson City. The Bank has grown to around 13.5 kilometres long and is considered to be the largest formation of its kind in the world.

The Bank was formed from the five kilometre-long cliff face of Mackay Bluff, between Cable Bay and the Glen. Over thousands of years rock fragments have fallen off the cliff face, to be caught up by sea currents at the base of the bluff. The rocks were then swept south and ultimately deposited on, and moved along, the Bank. The Bank separates from the cliff-face at the Glen, then for the first five kilometres is bounded on its inland side by drained swampland (the Wakapuaka Flats). From here it detaches from the mainland and extends as a lineal offshore barrier. It is severed by a major navigation channel before terminating at Haulashore Island. Arrow (Fifeshire) Rock lies to the immediate south of Haulashore Island. Between it and Haulashore Island lay the original marine passage to the settlement of Nelson.

The Boulder Bank (Te Taero a Kereopa /Te Tahuna a Tama-i-ea) is of cultural importance to Maori. It features strongly in a number of local traditional stories and legends, including the legend of Te Taero a Kereopa who escaped the wrath of Kupe by paddling towards Nelson’s shore while Kupe’s waka was held offshore by a growing barrier of boulders. Rangitane, Ngati Apa, and Ngati Kuia were the tangata whenua of Te Tau Ihu in the 1820s and 1830s, when Kawhia–Taranaki tribes migrated to the district. Ngati Koata settled as a result of a tuku [gift of land] and other northern iwi migrated after a series of battles and victories, and settled alongside Ngati Koata and the defeated Kurahaupo peoples. There has been intermarriage between all eight iwi, and they are bound together by whakapapa, co-residence, and overlapping customary rights.

From early times Maori used the Bank and its environs as a significant seasonal base for harvesting food. They also carried boulders from the Bank up to the argillite (pakohe) quarries and used them as hammerstones to break off pieces. This material was worked into tools which were traded around the country. In a European context, the decision to establish the colony of Nelson on the shores of Nelson Haven (a coastal lagoon) was the direct result of the discovery of the Boulder Bank in 1840 by an expeditionary party associated with the New Zealand Company. Haulashore Island was so named because it was used for ‘hauling ashore’ vessels for repair. In 1906 it became a permanent island, not just a low-tide island, when a shipping channel (the Cut) was dredged through the Bank.

Over the years a number of structures have been erected on the boulder platform, of which a small number remain. New Zealand’s second permanent lighthouse was erected on the Bank in 1862, which became one of the earliest automated lights in the country. The Bank or Haulashore Island have, at various times, also been home to two cannon, a flagstaff, tide signal station, workmen’s huts, lighthouse keeper’s residential complex, powder magazines, and structures associated with the dredging of the Cut. Four of the six baches remaining on the Bank date from the late nineteenth century.

From the 1860s to the 1970s parts of the Boulder Bank were used by local authorities as a source for boulders, and, when crushed, for basecourse material for the road and rail network. More recent changes to the profile of the Bank have come from the tunnelling for outfall pipes, illegal extraction of boulders and tracking from four-wheel drive vehicles. The Bank has always been popular for recreational pursuits, such as fishing, surfing and beachcombing.

The Boulder Bank is very significant in a wide variety of ways. The history of Nelson is integrally bound up in the safe embrace the Bank provides to the Haven. Early Maori used the Boulder Bank as a significant resource base, and this association has imbued the landscape with histories that remain integral to the tribal identity of mana whenua. In addition, the Boulder Bank has outstanding social and aesthetic values. Both the Boulder Bank and Arrow/Fifeshire Rock beside it, feature strongly in local artwork and marketing material for Nelson. The Boulder Bank, in particular, has become an icon for Nelson City. The baches still remaining on it are intriguing in their construction, but the installation of the lighthouse on its boulder matrix is a technological marvel. Similarly, dredging a marine passage through its very resistant landform sorely tested the capabilities of the early harbour engineers, but this laid the foundation for the growth of a vigorous port and contributed to the success of the colony.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Boulder Bank was of critical significance in determining the eventual location of the colonial settlement of Nelson. If the Boulder Bank had not been discovered by the New Zealand’s Company’s Second Colony Preliminary Expedition, the town would have been located on the other side of Tasman Bay.

Soon after the settlement of Nelson was established, Fifeshire Island was renamed Haulashore Island in recognition that it had begun to be regularly being used by vessels for careening. From the very early days, vessels could also unload stock onto Haulashore Island before being transferred to awaiting pastures in the Nelson region. However, when bad weather prevented vessels from sailing down to the southern provinces, stock could be unloaded onto Haulashore Island and transported onto shore. From Nelson they could be driven overland to stock the sheep-runs which were developing in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough and also Canterbury. In this way the stock holding capacity of Haulashore Island had some influence on the development of sheep farming in the South Island in early colonial times.

The lighthouse was erected on the Boulder Bank in 1862, the second in New Zealand. It was vital for assisting mariners approaching Nelson from the outer reaches of Tasman Bay, and also for identifying the alignment of the Boulder Bank and ultimately the approach to the harbour entrance. The lighthouse was the oldest operating lighthouse when it was finally decommissioned in 1982. As a registered Category 1 historic place it has high historical values.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The Boulder Bank and Arrow/Fifeshire Rock play highly significant roles in Nelson’s landscape. Both landforms are very distinctive and recognisable. Their visual presence and significance define the interface between the vast expanses of Tasman Bay and the sheltered waters of the Haven. The aesthetic values of the Boulder Bank were formally recognised in 1992 when it gained scenic reserve status under the Conservation Act 1987.

The Boulder Bank has become an icon for Nelson City. Local artists regularly include representations of the lighthouse and the Boulder Bank in their sculptures, paintings, photographs and other forms of artwork. The Bank also features strongly in marketing and publicity material for Nelson and its region.

In a similar way, but to a lesser extent, Arrow/Fifeshire Rock is also a symbol readily recognised by Nelsonians, and is used in a variety of expressive artworks. The simplicity of the weatherbeaten baches, exposed to the elements in the midst of an outstanding physical landscape, is also highly evocative aesthetically.

Archaeological Significance or Value

The archaeological landscape of the Nelson Boulder Bank is significant and important to the settlement and development of Nelson. Each archaeological site on its own is not rare but when these sites are looked at as a whole it is apparent that the Nelson Boulder Bank has had many layers of occupation and settlement. It is the layers of occupation and the number of sites that makes the archaeological landscape of the Nelson Boulder Bank so significant.

The settlement of the Nelson area by Maori dates from as early as the archaic period. The Maori sites, consisting of midden and occupation sites, provide information on the natural resources that were being utilised for tools or ornaments, subsistence economy and settlement patterns. At the time of European contact there were people living along the Glen, indicating that settlement in the area was early and continuous. With European settlement the landscape changed.

European archaeological sites are also present on the Boulder Bank. The Wakapuaka area was drained and extensive farming activities began in the Glen. A powder magazine was installed as early as 1843, followed soon after by work to progressively drain the Wakapuaka Flats. A few decades later the lighthouse and its associated residential buildings were erected on the Bank. Before the turn of the century the first of the baches was probably already installed, followed by the creation of the Cut in 1906, with its associated wharf and other structures. At least nine pre-1900 shipwrecks are known to have occurred in the water immediately surrounding the Boulder Bank, and these, along with artefacts dropped overboard from vessels anchored in Bolton Hole, can provide knowledge of nineteenth century ship-building techniques as well as tell of the lives of crew and passengers on board.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Nelson Boulder Bank baches are architecturally significant as fine examples of the traditional New Zealand bach, which is a vernacular design and construction type of progressing rarity. The baches represent a type of building once familiarly seen in rural and seaside locations, built specifically for climate, location, infrequent and often recreational use, minimal cost, and with little view toward improvement. The Boulder Bank baches are made from recycled materials that were to hand; also a representative feature of the New Zealand bach.

The Boulder Bank Lighthouse has architectural significance as a purpose-built beacon with a visually pleasing appearance. Its tapering and slender column, small windows, octagonal lantern and bracketed balcony, present the essentials of a lighthouse with an elegance in form and materials to create a landmark building. The once-present associated buildings can be detected in its exterior vertical form near its base.

Technological Significance or Value

The activities of early European fishermen, coating their nets with tar and laying them out to dry on the Boulder Bank, are thought to have led to the establishment of the first structures for overnighting on the Bank. They were constructed from an innovative mix of building materials, such as kerosene tins, boulders, driftwood and dunnage. These developed into baches, some of which still remain on the Bank. These structures are unique and are significant for the way they reflect the use of materials readily to hand in the manner of their construction.

Nelson’s lighthouse is constructed of imported cast iron panels and was one of the earliest lighthouses to be automated in the country. It represents an authentic surviving example of a mid-nineteenth century lighthouse, and its construction on a boulder matrix adds to its technological value.

Cultural Significance or Value

The Nelson Boulder Bank / Te Taero a Kereopa is of cultural significance to Maori. It is considered a wahi tapu area that is integrally connected to the history of iwi occupation of the Whakatu, Nelson area. Te Taero’s long history of Maori occupation, activity and association has imbued the landscape with histories that remain integral to the tribal identity of mana whenua.

Te Taero a Kereopa / Te Tahuna a Tama-i-ea is the embodiment and symbolic representation of the mauri (life-giving force) of the Whakatu, a place that is sacred in the mythological sense. The oral traditions pertaining to Te Taero a Kereopa, the barrier of Kereopa, are considered sacred due to their ancient origin and the tangible evidence of tipuna (ancestors) and their activities and world view. This includes numerous versions of stories associated with the great pioneer Kupe and the numerous tribal and place names associated with him. The pakiwaitara (story) is based around Kupe’s pursuit of Kereopa and Pani forming the Boulder bank to delay Kupe’s advance. The ancestor Kupe is an intricate part of the whakapapa (genealogy) links of iwi throughout New Zealand from the North to the South.

The Bank has contributed immensely to the identity of the region and Nelsonians. It regularly features in artworks and also in publicity for upcoming events and festivities in the region. The Bank itself has become a symbolic icon for Nelson. The baches which still remain on it foster the classic kiwi bach ethic, essentially basic, functional and arising from very simple beginnings. The baches are a pot pourri of structures and witness the do-it-yourself, no frills culture of early Kiwi coastal leisure. The bach owners have developed a sense of community that has existed over the generations. However, the public at large have in the past, and still make, regular use of the Bank for recreational walking and fossicking.

Scientific Significance or Value

The Boulder Bank is of considerable significance in the field of earth science. Nelson’s Boulder Bank is considered to be the longest of its kind in the world, and is particularly significant for the large size of its boulders. Through studying this unique natural landform, scientists have been able to contribute knowledge at an international level that is unable to be gained from any other resource. The research potential of this geological feature of global significance continues to be valued in the scientific community.

Social Significance or Value

Since Europeans established the settlement of Nelson, the Boulder Bank has always been significant as a place for leisurely recreation. Special events were typically held at certain times, for example Children’s Day on Haulashore Island in 1918. Haulashore Island is still very popular for organised children’s activities, and the Boulder Bank is widely used for ad hoc enjoyment, with more vigorous pursuits now also featuring strongly, such as surfing, multi-sport events and the annual Boulder Bank Challenge.

The residents of the baches on the Boulder Bank have always claimed a real sense of community and togetherness. Over many years they have held their own elections, electing a mayor and councillors. They typically claim it as New Zealand’s smallest municipality and used to fly a flag on New Year’s Eve.

Suggestions to remove the baches have led to vocal opposition from many within the Nelson community.

Nelson residents clearly strongly value their unique coastal landforms. Strong advocacy from local environmental groups in the 1970s was instrumental in raising public awareness of the uniqueness and importance of the Boulder Bank, and these groups first campaigned for the landform to be protected. The discovery of the illegal removal of large quantities of boulders from the Bank led to the expression of public outrage in 2007. Similarly, the removal of a small cabbage tree by vandals from atop Arrow/Fifeshire Rock also met with vocal condemnation through newspaper headlines and letters to the editor. Again, a major proposal to establish Port Kakariki, a planned $97 million port for supercarriers immediately off the Bank at the Glen, was met with vigorous opposition.

Traditional Significance or Value

The Boulder Bank features strongly in a range of Maori legends and it has been accorded a number of different Maori names. The legend of Te Taero a Kereopa, where Kereopa escaped the wrath of Kupe by paddling towards Nelson’s shore while Kupe’s waka was held offshore by a growing barrier of boulders, is one of the more widely known, and is the reason why the Boulder Bank is known to some as Te Taero a Kereopa.

Maori used the Boulder Bank and its environs as a significant seasonal base for food gathering. Tasman Bay, the sheltered waters of Nelson Haven, the wetlands at the head of the Haven, and the Bank itself (e.g. for birds and birds eggs) provided a rich source of kai. Maori also carried boulders from the Bank up to the argillite quarries along the Nelson Mineral Belt. They were used as hammerstones to fracture the argillite, ultimately allowing it to be shaped into hand tools for the making of adze and grinding kokowai (red ochre) or awhato (dye) with other natural material for the traditions of Ta Moko.

Six iwi hold mana whenua status in the Nelson area - Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Ngati Toarangatira and Te Atiawa. Maori continue to have an ongoing relationship with the Boulder Bank.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Blackett, John

John Blackett (1818-93) was one of New Zealand's leading nineteenth century civil engineers and the chief designer of many of the public works undertaken during the Vogel era. Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, he served his apprenticeship with R. & W. Hawthorne, Engineers from 1834-40, and then became a draughtsman and office engineer with the Great Western Railway Company. In 1844 Blackett was made head engineer of a London firm of ship builders and railway contractors, and from 1846 he worked for a copper mining company in Wales. Blackett established his own practice in 1849 but two years later he emigrated to New Zealand and settled near New Plymouth. In 1856 Blackett moved to Nelson where he was appointed Provincial Engineer in 1859. Six years later he became the first Commissioner for the West Coast Goldfields.

After a decade of working in the civil service at a provincial level John Blackett was appointed Marine Engineer and Acting Engineer-in-Chief for the Colony on 1 October 1870. As Marine Engineer, he was responsible for the design of twenty-five lighthouses which were erected during one of the most prolific periods of lighthouse construction in New Zealand. This achievement is considered to be his most significant contribution to engineering in this country, although his work for the Public Works Department was also very important, particularly as it related to the development of the national rail network. Engineer-in-Charge of the North Island Public Works Department from 1878, Blackett was promoted to the office of Engineer-in-Chief of New Zealand in 1884. In this capacity he ran the Engineering Branch of the Public Works Department until 1890 when he was appointed Consulting and Inspecting Engineer for the Colony, resident in London. Blackett returned to New Zealand just before his death in 1893 and he is remembered for the skill with which he realised the ambitious public works programmes fostered by Vogel and his successors.

Messrs. Stothert and Pitt, Engineers of Bath

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Slaughter Grunning and Co., Bristol, England

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Brown and Simpson

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau

Ngati Apa

Rangitane (North Island)

Ngati Koata

Ngati Tama

Ngati Kuia

Ngati Rarua

Ngati Toa Rangatira

Te Atiawa (South Island)

Historical Narrative

Maori occupation

There are a number of Maori legends which seek to explain the origins of the Boulder Bank. A well-known one is the legend of Te Taero a Kereopa. According to this, Kereopa escaped the wrath of Kupe by paddling towards Nelson’s shore while Kupe’s waka was held offshore by a growing barrier of boulders. This is the reason why the Bank is known to some as Te Taero a Kereopa.

Some traditions and legends put forward that Maori were present in the Nelson (Wakatu) area from as long ago as around 850.

The Waitangi Tribunal reports that the Maori iwi and hapu of Te Tau Ihu (top of the South Island) have described their identity in the following terms: ‘Rangitane, Ngati Apa, and Ngati Kuia are descendants of the captain and crew of the.Kurahaupo waka. They were the tangata whenua of Te Tau Ihu in the 1820s and 1830s, when Kawhia–Taranaki tribes migrated to the district. Ngati Toa Rangatira, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Koata, Ngati Tama, and Te Atiawa migrated to.Te Tau Ihu in the 1820s and 1830s from their original rohe in the Kawhia and Taranaki districts. Some have affiliations to the Tainui waka, others to the Tokomaru waka. Ngati Koata settled as a result of a tuku [gift of land] from Tutepourangi, an ariki of the Kurahaupo tribes. The other northern iwi migrated after a series of battles and victories, and set¬tled alongside Ngati Koata and the defeated Kurahaupo peoples. There has been intermarriage between all eight iwi, and they are bound together by whakapapa, co-residence, and overlapping customary rights.’

New Zealand Archaeological Association records in 2007 identified seven pre-European archaeological sites located on the Boulder Bank between Haulashore Island and the Glen. These identified mostly small midden/pits which were distributed along the northern half of the Bank, as well as one midden site on Haulashore Island and two settlement sites at the Glen. A 2010 field inspection identified two new sites on Haulashore Island and also re-recorded one of the midden sites at the northern end of the Boulder Bank as four separate sites given the distance between each archaeological deposit.

The archaeological remains confirm that Maori used the Boulder Bank and its environs as a seasonal base for food gathering during summer. Fresh water was available at the Glen and land for cultivation. The adjacent coastal forest, estuary and wetlands were rich in food and other resources (e.g. flax). The Boulder Bank itself also provided a source of birds and birds’ eggs. Ngati Rarua from Motueka had an encampment at the southern end of the Boulder Bank on what is now Haulashore Island. Coastal land at Wakapuaka was inhabited, possibly including a village (named Koi-te-Hihi or similar). The archaeological remains also confirm that Maori settlement of the Nelson Boulder Bank was early and ongoing.

The Waitaha are said to have established the large argillite (pakohe) quarries dotted along the eastern ranges of Nelson. Over the generations, Maori have carried boulders (some up to 60kg) from the Boulder Bank up to these argillite quarries. The Bank boulders were used as hammers to smash slabs of rock from solid outcrops two metres or more high. Smaller hammerstones were then used to reduce chunks of argillite to adze-sized pieces. Both slabs that were partly worked and finished products were traded around New Zealand.

Eight iwi hold mana whenua status in the Nelson area - Ngati Apa, Rangitane, Ngati Kuia, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama, Te Atiawa, and Ngati Koata. Maori continue to have an ongoing relationship with the Boulder Bank.

European discovery

Although many of the noted early European explorers visited the top of the South Island, only Dumont D’Urville visited Tasman Bay. However, it was not until 1841 that a boating party associated with the preliminary expedition of the New Zealand’s Company’s ‘Second Colony’ discovered the Boulder Bank.

The expedition, led by Captain Arthur Wakefield, included the barques Whitby and Will Watch and the store ship Arrow. When these vessels departed Britain, arrangements were already underway for the first contingent of ships laden with emigrants to promptly follow. At this point it had been established that the main town of the new colony would be named Nelson, but it had not been determined where in New Zealand it would be located.

When the expedition arrived in Wellington Governor Hobson offered land in the North Island, however Captain Arthur Wakefield and his brother Colonel William Wakefield strongly favoured the Canterbury area. Hobson was adamant the South Island was not available until other land claims had first been resolved. With this stalemate, the Wakefields looked for a site within the lower North Island and upper South Island, land Colonel Wakefield had negotiated over in 1839 with local Maori chiefs.

Captain Frederick Moore of Wellington was familiar with Tasman Bay and piloted the expedition ships to explore it. Captain Wakefield initially assessed the area around Motueka and tentatively decided on a site for the settlement between Motueka and Riwaka. However, after sending a small exploratory party over to the eastern side of the bay, the discovery of the Boulder Bank and the sheltered water body behind it provided Captain Wakefield with a potential new site.

He sailed his three ships into the harbour behind the Boulder Bank, and, after assessing both the harbour and its surrounding land, quickly determined that the settlement of Nelson would be built on its shores - ‘a haven full of birds, fish, fresh water and plenty of wood for building’. The harbour was subsequently named Nelson Haven.

Arrow/Fifeshire Rock

The first settlers to Nelson Haven arrived in February 1842 on board the Lloyds, Fifeshire, Mary Ann and Lord Auckland. It was to be the last journey for the Fifeshire. On her departure from Nelson Haven, a falling tide and failing wind conspired to ground her cast on the reef surrounding Arrow Rock and becoming a total loss. After this event Arrow Rock commonly became known as Fifeshire Rock.

The Fifeshire was by no means alone in having the misfortune to run aground near the southern end of the Boulder Bank. Many vessels foundered here, partly because of the narrow and shallow harbour entrance between the Boulder Bank and Arrow/Fifeshire Rock. This passage was known as ‘the Narrows’. In all, there are at least 19 shipwrecks and 5 hulks scattered around the Nelson harbour and entrance, with the wrecks of at least ten vessels known to have occurred within the historic area.

Haulashore Island (formerly Fifeshire Island)

This ‘island’ is located at the extreme southern end of the Boulder Bank. At high tides, it and a nearby elevation (later named Magazine Island) were cut off from the rest of the Boulder Bank, and the water passages in between were deep enough for small vessels to use. At all other tides, these two islands formed a continuous part of the Bank.

Captain Wakefield named Aglionby Point at the southern end of Haulashore Island after one of the New Zealand Company’s directors, Henry Aglionby, M.P. Aglionby Point is also the site of the first known Pakeha burial in Nelson, which took place in November 1841. Thomas Cresswell, one of the New Zealand Company’s men, was buried there after succumbing to typhoid. A memorial plaque has been erected on the island by his descendants.

When Nelson was formally subdivided into land titles in 1842, three town acres on the Island were offered for sale. A fourth town acre was selected by Magistrate H. A. Thompson as a native reserve. Three locations on the perimeter of the island were set aside as defence reserves. These were named after the endeavours of Admiral Nelson.

In the first years of European settlement Haulashore Island was also used as a holding paddock for stock. The Posthumous from Australia, for example, in 1843, disembarked part of her cargo of 1600 sheep on this island. Some vessels pulled into Nelson Harbour as a result of the inclement weather, discharged their stock in Nelson and then had it driven overland to developing sheep runs in Marlborough and Canterbury.

Haulashore Island was initially called Fifeshire Island, because the Fifeshire was wrecked adjacent to it. However, during the late nineteenth century the use of the name of ‘Haul-ashore’ for the island became widespread. This was because the island was eminently suitable as a place for ‘hauling ashore’ vessels for repair and refurbishment and a large number of vessels used this facility. The use of Haulashore Island as a natural slipway started to decline with the development of alternative facilities on the mainland. As late as 1934 the coastal paddle steamer Lady Barkly was beached there to be dismantled. The Lady Barkly (built in 1861) was then thought to be the oldest steamship in the southern hemisphere, and had been armour-plated and used in the advance guard for steamers on the Waikato River during the New Zealand Wars. Haulashore Island continued to be used for occasional repair and maintenance work on vessels into the 1960s.

In 1906 Haulashore Island became a permanent island when it was severed from the Boulder Bank when a shipping channel was dredged through. The dredged channel is known locally as ‘the Cut’. The island effectively doubled in size as a direct result of the dumping of dredge spoil from the excavation activities.

The Nelson Iron Duke Sea Scout Group has long had an association with Haulashore Island. They often held camps on the island and in the 1920s began a planting programme there - possibly in an attempt to break the southerly winds that could sweep the island, thereby giving more sheltered water for their marine activities in the Haven, and also as a future source of firewood for fundraising drives. Other planting efforts were also made and Captain Malcolm and Perrine Moncrieff gifted a portion of the island to the Nelson City Council for the special purpose of a playground for the children of Nelson. Perrine Moncrieff was a key driving force in the establishment of the Abel Tasman National Park.

New harbour entrance (the Cut)

Nelson’s port became increasingly important very soon after organised immigration began. From 1842 to 1847 Nelson’s overseas arrivals exceeded those of the ports of both Auckland and Wellington and it continued to hold its own against these ports for at least another decade.

The entrance to Nelson harbour required care and knowledge of the tides to ensure a safe passage between Arrow/Fifeshire Rock and Haulashore Island. From 1842, vessels waiting for the right conditions used a natural deepwater basin 760 metres to the west of the entrance, known as Bolton Hole (also Bolton Deep or Bolton Roads), as an anchorage. The natural constraints of the harbour entry point were compounded when the eastern outlet of the Waimea River started to change its course. Corresponding changes in the location of the sandbar near the harbour entrance and shallowing water caused headaches for the settlement’s marine engineers in the 1870s-80s. Steamers ran aground and sailing ships would touch the bottom when coming through the Narrows.

Efforts to improve the harbour passage by blasting adjacent to Arrow/Fifeshire Rock did not provide a workable remedy. The most likely solution was to cut a new passage right through the Boulder Bank, but there was no consensus on where the ‘Cut’ should go. A vigorous debate dragged out over the next decade. Eventually a modified version of a plan by Leslie Reynolds was adopted in 1899 by the Nelson City Council. The projected cost of dredging a channel 4.6 metres deep and 152 metres wide, plus associated works, was £58,000. Work finally began on the Cut in 1903.

The pressure to have the Cut operational as soon as possible was intense. It was officially opened in 1906 when its bottom width was only 60 metres, less than half that planned. However, the new passage that the Cut provided to shipping did not stop the controversy over its inadequacy. Dredging efforts continued but it wasn’t until 1969 that the width and depth of the Cut initially envisaged in 1906 was finally reached. As a part of the dredging operations, a dragline operation was implemented in the 1960s. Remnants of the bridle structure on Haulashore Island, the wharf and foundations for the winch-house structure associated with this activity remain.

The dredging of the new harbour entrance in 1906 physically severed the Bank. Its effect on shipping access was immediate. The port facilities nestled in Nelson Haven could be more readily and safely accessed, contributing to the economic and population growth of the region, and the settlement of Nelson went from strength to strength.

Magazine Island

Magazine Island, in contrast to Haulashore Island, has over time lost its so-called island status. As the top gravel layer of the Boulder Bank has extended further southwards, it has enveloped Magazine Island. The latter is now indistinguishable from the rest of the Boulder Bank.

Magazine Island acquired its name because of powder magazines which were erected on it from as early as 1843. The remains of the powder magazine erected there in 1874 and substantially dismantled in 1971 can still clearly be seen. The island was also the location of an early iron railing slipway (erected pre-1902), and some evidence of this remains close to the powder magazine.

Nelson lighthouse

The Boulder Bank is the location of the second permanent lighthouse to be built in New Zealand (1862) and it played an extremely important role in the development of Nelson. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has registered the lighthouse as a Category 1 historic place (Register no. 41).

In 1888 the flagstaff and tide signal station which stood on Britannia Heights on the mainland were moved to beside the lighthouse tower on the Boulder Bank. In the same year a telephone was installed in the lighthouse and in 1897 it was linked with the country’s telegraphic system. In 1906 the status of the facilities associated with the lighthouse were recorded as follows: ‘The lighthouse is situated on the Boulder Bank, and also the telegraph and signal station, from which the general bar and tide signals are shown, as well as tidal signals indicating the depth of water at the entrance, as shown by the inner tide gauge. The lighthouse has telephone communication with the pilot station; and an efficient pilot service, which is compulsory, has been established.’

The lighthouse was manned from 1862 until 1915, when an unwatched flashing beam was installed. Prior to this the light had been a fixed beam, but this had begun to cause confusion with lights from dwellings on the hills inland. The families of the lighthouse keeper and his assistant were housed in a complex which grew to include two dwellings and a number of outbuildings. John Kidson was a lighthouse keeper of particular note, given he and his family of eventually 10 children lived at the lighthouse for an unbroken period of 27 years until 1892. Once the lighthouse became automated the families moved off the Boulder Bank and the buildings were soon dismantled and moved off-site. The signal station was also removed.

The lighthouse and a small area of land around it are now in the ownership of Port Nelson Limited.

The Boulder Bank baches and recreation on the Boulder Bank

Historical accounts are scanty but suggest nine baches have existed on the Boulder Bank. Only six of these remain today. Of these, four are very old and likely started life as basic overnight shelters for fishermen who used to tar their fishing nets on the Boulder Bank and leave them out to dry.

All of the baches have contributed to a social history of the occupation of the Boulder Bank, notably with Bill Clark living permanently in his bach for around 37 years from the 1950s. Typically, past owners used their baches on an intermittent basis only but, irrespective of this, a healthy community spirit built up over the years. This spirit has carried through and present bach owners regularly get together for social gatherings, particularly around Christmas time. The old baches, along with the two more recent baches constructed in the 1950s, continue to form the background for ongoing social interaction among the owners. Elections for a mayor and councillors of their own little ‘municipality’, which has its own flag, have been a feature in some New Year celebrations among bach owners.

Historically the Bank has been used for recreation from the early years of the European establishment of Nelson. Activities tended to be concentrated at either end of the Bank. For instance, one could travel out to The Glen at the northern end aboard a horse-drawn charabanc, followed by a paddle in the water then afternoon tea at the Edmondson’s tearooms located next to the Boulder Bank. At the city end of the Bank, Haulashore Island was the scene of organised events, such as Children’s Day in 1918 when a maypole and tents were erected.

A wide variety of recreational pursuits are enjoyed by the public at large on the Boulder Bank to the present day. A ferry service provides on-demand transport to and from Haulashore Island, the Boulder Bank and the mainland. While it is possible to camp overnight on Haulashore Island, visitors are typically day-trippers. Haulashore Island is very popular for picnicking and children’s (pirates) parties, and the Department of Conservation, as well as the Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council, often hold activities there, such as Conservation Day or school holiday events. The Boulder Bank is very popular for those who enjoy walking, beachcombing and fishing. Snapper Point, towards the northern end of the Boulder Bank, provides one of the most reliable locations in the Nelson/Tasman area for good surfing. Organised multi-sport events are also held on the Bank, for example the Nelson Ironman, which is run every summer.

In 2010 an inaugural Boulder Bank Challenge run by Rotary provided transport to and from the Bank and saw 300 people take the opportunity to walk eight kilometres of its length and collect rubbish along the way. A similar number took part in the challenge in 2011 and the event is now an annual one.

Mackay Bluff, Wakapuaka & Glenduan

Mackay Bluff is the five kilometre long cliff-face at the northern end of the Boulder Bank which is the source of the boulders for the Bank. At the southern end of the bluff is the small settlement of Glenduan (the Glen).

Mackay Bluff was named after James Mackay senior, a Scotsman who arrived in New Zealand with his family in 1845. Mackay played a major role in draining the swampland immediately adjacent to the Boulder Bank at Wakapuaka, near the Glen. As a part of this drainage system, a pipe through the Bank eventually connected with a siphon system, to allow floodwaters over the Wakapuaka Flats to drain out with the receding tide. These flats are now highly productive farmland.

More recent use of the Boulder Bank

In recent years the number of outfall pipes driven through the Bank has increased. Two pipes located on the Wakapuaka Flats are for stormwater drainage and outfall from the Nelson City sewerage treatment plant, and a third outfall is associated with the Sealord fisheries factory at Port Nelson.

In 1969 a causeway was constructed between the mainland and the Boulder Bank. This facilitated development of the sewerage treatment plant. It also provided a new route for vehicles to access the Boulder Bank, though it has always been prohibited to drive vehicles directly on to it in this location.

An old farm track, around five kilometres long, has been developed at the northern end of the Boulder Bank and provides the only formed vehicle path on the Bank itself. It is the result of an historic easement to allow access by tankers to the adjacent farm milking shed, however the shed now no longer exists. The track was extended a number of years ago to provide access to the Cawthron Aquaculture Centre. The latter (under public pressure) has now formed up an alternative access road, providing the opportunity for the farm track to be permanently closed to vehicles. The track is currently used on an ad-hoc basis for access by campervans, house buses and other vehicles.

The Boulder Bank and its social and scientific importance

The Boulder Bank has a special meaning for the people of Nelson. It is unique in New Zealand, and because of its long length and the large size of its boulders it is in fact the largest of its type in the world. The advocacy of local environmental groups Friends of Nelson Haven & Tasman Bay Inc and Forest & Bird in the 1970s played a great part in raising public awareness of the landform and first campaigned for its protection.

Nelson has since adopted the Boulder Bank as an icon of the city. Arrow/Fifeshire Rock, close to Haulashore Island, is also a very dramatic landscape feature. The views of these landforms from Rocks Road in Nelson are much appreciated by the locals. Between these two landforms lay the original harbour entrance, and this passage is still widely used by recreational marine craft. When the tides are very low, it is nearly possible to walk to the Rock and it is readily swimmable from either Haulashore Island or the mainland. Arrow/Fifeshire Rock and Haulashore Island are both very significant elements in Nelson’s coastal recreational environment. Both landforms are very often portrayed in a wide variety of artwork and media, and publicity and marketing material. Nelson’s first community Access Radio station was initially named ‘Boulder Radio’. Nelson has formed a sister city relationship with Miyazu in Japan, based on the similarities between the Boulder Bank and the reminiscent sandy coastal spit in Miyazu, Ama-no-Hashidate, that is considered to be one of Japan’s ‘Three Great Views’.

Nelsonians are passionate about their coastline and have often voiced their outrage at proposals which may directly adversely affect it, for example when a consortium planned to build a large bulk cargo wharf facility off the Boulder Bank near The Glen in 1994. The facility was to cost $97 million, cater for supercarriers and be called Port Kakariki. It was not built, but its proposal spawned the creation of the Nelson Boulder Bank Action Group.

In a similar vein, public outrage was immediate in April 2008 when a group of intoxicated people paddled over to Arrow/Fifeshire Rock in kayaks and one of them pulled out the lone cabbage tree that was valiantly surviving atop it. Attempts were subsequently made to re-establish a cabbage tree in the same spot.

Public concern about change to these coastal landforms continues in 2012 in relation to a proposal to erect a large-scale sculpture on Haulashore Island. There is widespread and ongoing debate over the scale, design and inherent appropriateness of the proposed multimillion dollar sculpture in this landscape.

Suggestions from the Department of Conservation over the past decade that the baches should be removed from the Bank to return it to its natural state have also met with strong opposition by some within the Nelson community. Many consider the baches represent an integral element of the social history of the Bank, and public interest in the structures on open days is high.

Four-wheel drive vehicles have over many years gained unlawful access onto the Bank to reach fishing spots and to illegally take boulders and driftwood. In the early days of Nelson’s settlement the Nelson Harbour Board and Nelson City Council regularly extracted large quantities of material from the Boulder Bank for a variety of uses. It was particularly sourced as basecourse material for the expanding road and rail network. Boulders were also used for a number of other purposes, including as house piles and kerbstones. However, the wholesale extraction of boulders was prohibited in the 1970s. This has not stopped people from taking boulders for private use, often by the trailer-load. Though the potential for a breach in the Bank is small, the boulders taken are typically from an area where the profile of the Bank is very low and is the place most likely for any breach to occur.

Since the Department of Conservation took over its administration from the Nelson Harbour Board in 1992, the Bank has been a formal scenic reserve. The general doctrines of the Conservation Act 1987 therefore apply. The Nelson Resource Management Plan enunciates the international significance of the Boulder Bank. Its sister plans, such as the Wakatu Heritage Strategy, the Nelson Biodiversity Strategy and the Nelson Community Plan, all articulate the importance of reinforcing a sense of ‘our place’, strengthening Nelson’s identity, safeguarding heritage, and, in the case of the Biodiversity Strategy, specifically identify the Boulder Bank as a flagship site for raising public awareness of the environment.

The international scientific significance of the Boulder Bank has been recognised by the Geological Society of New Zealand, who have identified it as a site of international significance in its Geopreservation Inventory, which also notes its vulnerability. A number of esteemed geological experts also consider the Boulder Bank to be of great scientific importance and a site that offers unique opportunities for scientific advancement because of its rarity and size.

Physical Description

Current Description

The Boulder Bank ‘proper’ is essentially the narrow coastal boulder strip which lies between the Glen and Haulashore Island. For most of this distance it is a spit, physically separated from the mainland. While Haulashore Island has been physically severed from the rest of the Boulder Bank by the dredging of the Cut, it is still part of the Boulder Bank formation. Therefore it is included in the historic area. While Arrow/Fifeshire Rock, which lies adjacent to Haulashore Island is formed from a process different to the Boulder Bank, it is physically and visually part of the Nelson Haven and harbour coastal landscape, and is a significant component in Nelson’s maritime history. It is included in the area of registration because of this, and is an icon closely associated with Haulashore Island and the Haven. Together, Arrow/Fifeshire Rock, Haulashore Island and the Boulder Bank form the protective arm that encircles Nelson’s port and the marine recreational playground of the Haven.

The land parcels included in the registration extend to the marine depth (5m) contour along the outside of the Bank. This is to ensure the widest extent of the boulder platform, which is evident at low tides, is included in the registration, and also to encompass the remains of any shipwrecks or evidence of maritime activity, of which there is known to be much in the area surrounding the Boulder Bank, Haulashore Island, Arrow/Fifeshire Rock and Bolton Hole. The coastal boundaries of the land parcels have a legal ambulatory status, i.e. they move as the landform changes.

The shipping channel through the Cut is excluded from the registration extent, as any remains of shipwrecks are likely to have long since been removed from that area.

It is the physical presence of the Boulder Bank which ties all the historic places on it together. The man-made historic elements would not be there if it were not for the opportunities offered by the unique location and underlying geological makeup of the Bank.

Boulder banks, on a global scale, are a very rare phenomenon. The Nelson Boulder Bank is considered by expert New Zealand geologists who are familiar with it to be the largest of its kind in the world. Well respected and immensely experienced geologist Dr Trevor Healy describes it as ‘unique in the narrowest sense of the word – meaning that there is no barrier system of similar size and sedimentology to it in the world, at least to my knowledge and experience of coastlines in New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Japan, China, UK, Northern Europe and the Baltic coasts, and the Mediterranean coasts.’

Most spit formations around the world are composed of sand, shingle, pebbles, cobbles or a combination of these. They may also have been created by processes other than longshore drift. Because of its geological makeup, there are in fact a number of boulder banks on the shores of New Zealand; however, the distinguishing characteristics of Nelson’s Boulder Bank are essentially its long and narrow length and the large size of its boulders. Its nearest comparison, the Wairau Bar in Marlborough, is made up of smaller material and is over five kilometres shorter.

The boulder beach along the foot of Mackay Bluff, from the residential enclave at the Glen northwards to Cable Bay, has played a fundamental role in the formation of Nelson’s Boulder Bank. This is because the rock fragments which have eroded off the cliff-face have been the source of material for the Bank, at least in part but more likely they have formed the entire source material. These rocks have then been caught up by currents in Tasman Bay and swept southwards in a process known as longshore drift. Over thousands of years this material has been deposited and moved along the landform we now know as the Nelson Boulder Bank.

Although the five kilometre cliff-face of Mackay Bluff, and the boulder beach at its base, are part of the Boulder Bank system, the Boulder Bank itself is generally recognised as being the narrow spit which runs southwards from the Glen. This spit is essentially a lineal strip of boulders, with progressive changes in its width and height as it continues southwards. As this spit is the location of cultural material remains of human activity, it is the area recognised by the Historic Area registration. Tasman Bay lies on the northwest side of the spit and the quiet waters of Nelson Haven on its southeast side.

For the first five kilometres from its northern launch point from the mainland at the Glen, the Bank immediately adjoins the drained Wakapuaka Flats. Before European settlement these flats were a vast low-lying flax swamp. The profile of the Bank here is quite steep, rising to around six metres above mean sea level, and its top layer of boulders forms a broad ridge about 60 metres wide. An old track, until recently used for vehicle access to a farm and the Cawthron Aquaculture Centre, lies along the top ridge.

The northern end of the Bank is available under Nelson City Bylaws as a public area for exercising dogs. This is also the area where vegetative cover on the Bank is most concentrated, consisting mostly of hardy native shrubs and exotic herbs. Some vegetation was planted many years ago by the Nelson Harbour Board and residents of the Glen. In more recent times, seeds and cuttings from native trees and shrubs collected from Mackay Bluff have been propagated and planted out.

Most of the archaeological sites associated with Maori activity on the Boulder Bank occur towards the northern end of the Bank, with identification of a kainga site (O27/13) at the Glen itself. There are two recorded archaeological sites in the Glen area that have not been included in the registration, however. O27/11 (Pits) was not able to be re-located during the 2010 fieldwork, and as there are numerous pit-like depressions to be found along the walk-line of the Boulder Bank, there is not enough evidence to confirm which are of cultural archaeological provenance or which may result from later activities such as quarrying and people simply moving boulders around. O27/12 is an artefact findspot recorded in the 1960s in a location which has since been subdivided and that is now covered by a residential area. While there have been some historical claims made for this being the general location of a pa site, no physical evidence has yet been found to support that, and subsequently this site has been excluded from the registration.

Just before the Bank leaves the Wakapuaka Flats to become a totally separate spit, there is a significant ‘kink’ in its alignment. This location is known as Snapper Point and is a very popular place for local surfers. The ‘kink’ promotes ideal sets of waves for surfing.

Just south of Snapper Point the Bank is directly linked to the mainland by a vehicle causeway. This route is called Boulder Bank Drive. The Nelson City sewerage treatment facility has been installed on the Wakapuaka Flats, at the junction of the Boulder Bank and Boulder Bank Drive.

South of this junction, the Boulder Bank continues as a stand-alone lineal spit, running approximately one to two kilometres offshore. As it runs southwards, its profile tends to lower and become narrower. The southern half of the Bank is not as favourable for plant colonisation and typically provides a habitat for just lichens and mosses, although some vegetation has been planted by bach owners around their dwellings.

Boulder Bank Baches

Six baches are variously spaced out in a line between the central portion of the Bank and the lighthouse in the south. The middle four baches are in pairs; the baches at either end are spaced some distance from their nearest neighbour. Most are surrounded by outbuildings, outdoor tables and seating and planted vegetation.

Varying considerably in age, the baches are nevertheless a collection of small dwellings which show construction and use has occurred in a rustic and intermittent way. They are all dwellings which show the essentials of what New Zealand baches once were before the word ‘bach’ came to mean ‘modern holiday home’. They are small, weathered, quirky, and unimproved. From time to time new materials can be spotted indicating a level of maintenance is kept.

Generally the Bank is around 60-65 metres wide where the buildings are located on the leeward side of the Bank, not far from the water, hunched in against the rocks. The baches face Nelson Haven and often open out in that direction with windows, doors and rocky landings. Other openings on other sides of the baches are small or covered against the wind. The baches are generally constructed of a main low-sloping (sometimes almost flat) gabled structure, regular or irregular, with a variety of lean-tos, tanks, small sheds and chimneys attached.

Inside, the ceilings are low with the baches having split-floor levels to take advantage of the slope of the bank to maximise the room height. They are all particular in their floor layouts however some general similarities are found. The kitchen and living rooms are combined or connected, and have the most generous space. Between two and four bedrooms lead off from the living rooms and are confined in size. Bathrooms are small; toilets sometimes separate; halls and passages non-existent; and ancilliary sheds or rooms limited.

The materials of the baches are hugely mixed in age, type, and levels of workmanship and weathering. In keeping with the development and use of the quintessential bach, they show great variety of style, location and assembly. There is great reliance on corrugated material – generally iron – which is used as roofing and exterior wall lining. Weatherboards, board-and-batten, and panel linings occur in pockets. Doors and windows of great variety are generally timber. All baches have a distinct flue or chimney. A large rainwater collection tank and a smaller header tank are visible on most baches.

The interior of the baches are remarkable for the use and employment of building materials, finishes, fittings and furnishings obtained to make the bach comfortable. The décor is mixed, in the extreme, with all manner and age of wall linings, joinery, and interesting built-in furniture solutions. Maintenance materials add to existing fabric rather than replace it.

Little space around each bach has been demarcated in any concerted way. All baches have collections of driftwood, rainwater tank paraphernalia, random shrubbery, collections of rocks, fishing gear, the odd aerial, efforts at self-sufficiency in the form of solar or wind power units, and the occasional dog house or store shed.

All of the baches are built on the stable Nelson Haven side of the Bank. By contrast the seaward side of the Bank is exposed to the erosive forces of the sea and material continues to be driven into longitudinal ridges and moved ever further down southwards. Evidence of regular pedestrian activity is clearly seen around the baches and in lineal tracks along the lichen covered boulders.

Lighthouse, the Cut and Haulashore Island

South of the baches, in a similar fashion to Snapper Point, another significant kink in the Bank occurs near the lighthouse. The lighthouse tower stands alone, with the earlier residential buildings for the keepers and their families and the signal station having been removed from the Bank early in the twentieth century. In the vicinity of the lighthouse the top layer of gravel on the Bank flattens out to around 100 metres and its ridge height is only around three to four metres.

Up until the early twentieth century sections of the Bank were submerged at high tides to the south of the lighthouse, giving the appearance of two islands: Haulashore Island and Magazine Island. However, because the top layer of gravel on the Bank continues to advance southwards, Magazine Island has now been totally enveloped by the main body of the Bank and is no longer an isolated feature. Magazine Island was the site of two government powder magazines. The first was located there in 1843 but was later superseded by another in 1874. The foundations of the latter still remain on-site. A slipway was also in existence on Magazine Island around the turn of the twentieth century. A third (and private) magazine was located to the north of the lighthouse in 1882.

In 1906 a new harbour entrance (the Cut) was dredged through the Bank in the low lying gap between Magazine Island and Haulashore Island. This effectively made Haulashore a permanent island instead of an intermittent one. The Cut is now (2013) maintained at a minimum depth of eight metres below chart datum and is approximately 150 metres wide. The remains of any shipwrecks are likely to have long since been removed from the present shipping channel.

Prior to the dredging of the Cut, ships had to wait for the appropriate tidal and wind conditions to pass through the Narrows between (what is now) Haulashore Island and Arrow/Fifeshire Rock into the port at Nelson. Southwest of Arrow/Fifeshire Rock, tidal and river flow had carved out a 20 metre deep basin which became known as ‘Bolton Hole’, ‘Bolton Deep’, or ‘Bolton Roads’, which provided a natural temporary anchorage point for vessels.

Safe passage for vessels could not be guaranteed, as had been learned since the earliest days of European shipping activity in the area. At least 19 vessels are known to have wrecked around the Nelson harbour and entrance, including the Fifeshire (1842), Three Brothers (1857-1881), Folly (?-1868), Midge (1854-1887), Hekekenui (?-1937), Three Sisters (1860-1866), Grace Darling (1855-1865), and other unnamed vessels. Wrecks of at least ten vessels of these vessels occurred within the historic area. In addition, there are five hulks scattered around the Nelson Harbour and entrance.

The overall length of the Bank, between the Glen and the Cut is around 13.5 kilometres. It is continuing to change its shape within the Nelson Haven to the north of the Cut. Material drifting in through the harbour entrance and deposited on the Haven side of the Bank ensures it is still actively growing. The foundations of the winch-house, wharf and dragline structures involved in some of the dredging operations still remain on both the Boulder Bank and Haulashore Island, and are recorded archaeological sites.

There is also physical evidence of other man-made features on the Boulder Bank, including signage for an outfall pipe, a trig-station and remnants of an old wooden navigational beacon, concrete foundations and a railway ironpost vehicle barrier. In 2009 a new midden was uncovered that contains European material (such as ceramics and glass). This is located on that part of the Bank which lies adjacent to the Wakapuaka Flats.

Haulashore Island, on the southern side of the Cut, does not completely exhibit the boulder composition typical of the rest of the Boulder Bank. Spoil was dumped at its northern end when the Cut was dredged, effectively doubling the size of the island. This dumped material has now essentially consolidated with the island, though an ephemeral lagoon remains between the two. This accreted land was acquired by the Nelson City Council from the former Nelson Harbour Board in 1989 and the entire island is now a formal city reserve.

By contrast with the Boulder Bank north of the Cut, which remains virtually devoid of significant vegetation, Haulashore Island has witnessed a variety of planting programmes over the years and features a large number of established pine trees and macrocarpa. These provide some wind shelter for boating activities near the Cut. Plantings of ngaio and flax are accompanied by vegetation inadvertently introduced by picnickers or campers. Physical evidence remains on the island of past and present activities, including stone foundations and walls, iron rails and posts, beach retaining structures, a picnic table and barbeque, monuments with plaques and also midden. Other archaeological remains of the shipyards may be present subsurface on the eastern side of the Island.

An assessment of Nelson’s landscape values by a specialist consultancy in late 2005 evaluated the Boulder Bank as one of only two outstanding landscape features within the bounds of Nelson City. Haulashore Island, partnered with Arrow/Fifeshire Rock, was the other outstanding feature.

Key Elements of the Historic Area

Key elements that contribute to the historic area are as follows:

• The baches and their surrounding outbuildings, picnic tables and planted vegetation;

• Lighthouse tower and remnants of structures around it;

• Remnants of one of the powder magazines and nearby slipway;

• Foundations of the dragline winch-house and other structures associated with the dragline on both the Boulder Bank and Haulashore Island;

• Old wharf on the northern side of the Cut;

• Maori and European archaeological sites;

• Farm track at the northern end of the Bank;

• Visible pedestrian tracks through the lichen/mosses and over the boulders;

• Views seaward over Tasman Bay and landward to Atawhai, the city centre and port;

• Low profile of the baches;

• The sole readily identifiable vertical element introduced into the landscape by the lighthouse tower;

• Boulder beaches and gravel ridges in a range of profiles;

• Arrow/Fifeshire Rock as a sentinel marking the old harbour entrance.

Construction Dates

1841 -
First known Pakeha burial in Nelson takes place on Haulashore Island. First time Haulashore Island is used for hauling up a vessel (Captain Wakefield’s barque Whitby)

1842 -
Fifeshire wrecks on Arrow Rock

Additional building added to site
1843 -
First powder magazine is erected on Magazine Island. (It was removed between April and June 1860)

1846 -
Unnamed schooner wrecks on the Boulder Bank

1845 - 1849
Start of determined effort to drain the immense Wakapuaka Swamp immediately adjacent to the Boulder Bank, with a drainage pipe ultimately being driven through and a siphon installed in 1959.

1850 - 1869
Beginning of the significant extraction of boulders, e.g. for ballast, building piles, kerbstones or as a building material, or to be crushed and used as basecourse for the laying of roads/railway lines in Nelson.

Additional building added to site
1861 -
Work begins on constructing the lighthouse on the Boulder Bank

1862 -
Lighthouse becomes operational and is managed by a lighthouse keeper living in the two rooms at its base

1865 - 1878
Grace Darling wrecks at the harbour entrance, Three Sisters wrecks on Arrow Rock and Folly wrecks on the Boulder Bank.

Additional building added to site
1873 -
Second powder magazine is erected on Magazine Island. (It was dismantled in July/August 1971).

1874 -
Ann and Lilly of the Wave wreck on Arrow Rock, and Three Brothers wrecks on the Boulder Bank.

Additional building added to site
1875 -
Additional buildings begin to be erected around the base of the lighthouse tower to provide for a lighthouse keeper, his assistant and their families.

Additional building added to site
1876 -
Two-cannon barbette battery is established on Haulashore Island.

Additional building added to site
1880 - 1889
First ‘baches’ are erected on the Boulder Bank. (This date is tentative only as a more definitive date is not known)

Additional building added to site
1882 -
Third powder magazine is erected on the Boulder Bank. (It was demolished sometime after 1945).

1886 -
Cannon are removed from Haulashore Island.

1887 -
Midge wrecks on Haulashore Island.

1888 -
Flagstaff and tide signal station are relocated from the mainland to next to the lighthouse.

Additional building added to site
Slipway is established on Magazine Island. (It was demolished sometime after the 1930s).

1903 -
Work begins on dredging the Cut, dumping dredged spoil on Haulashore Island and building the southern mole.

Haulashore Island virtually doubles in size from the dumping of spoil associated with ongoing dredging of the Cut.

1906 -
The Cut is opened up to allow water to flow through between the Tasman Sea and Nelson Haven for the first time.

Demolished - additional building on site
1916 -
Lighthouse keepers’ cottages and associated structures (and presumably the signal station) are all removed from the Bank. One of the small structures from the lighthouse complex is relocated northwards up the Bank to form part of a bach.

Additional building added to site
1950 - 1959
Two baches are built in the early-mid 1950s.

1959 -
Outlet pipe is driven through the Bank to aid drainage of the Wakapuaka Flats.

1960 - 1969
The dragline operation is implemented to complete dredging of the Cut.

1969 -
Dredging of the Cut is finally completed to the depth and width originally envisaged in 1906.

1969 -
A causeway (Boulder Bank Drive) is constructed out to the Boulder Bank from the mainland to provide for the development of the city’s sewerage works.

1970 -
Sewage outfall pipe from the adjacent sewerage treatment plant is driven through the Bank.

1970 - 1979
Boulders/gravel is no longer permitted to be extracted from the Bank.

1982 -
The lighthouse is decommissioned and all work on the structure from this point onwards is purely maintenance.

1984 -
Wastewater outfall pipe from a fisheries processing plant at Port Nelson is driven through the Bank.

Demolished - additional building on site
1986 -
Winchhouse for the dragline is demolished though the foundations remain on-site.

Additional building added to site
1994 -
An aquaculture facility (later named the Cawthron Aquaculture Centre) is established immediately adjacent to the Boulder Bank and a pipe system installed through the Bank around this time to allow for the intake of fresh seawater and discharge of wastewater.

Demolished - Fire
2021 - 2022
Cederman Bach destroyed by a fire.

Construction Details

Lighthouse: Prefabricated cast-iron panels, glass, steel, wood, granodiorite, copper, bronze.

Powder Magazine: Boulder bank boulders, stone, wood, brick, slate roof.

Baches: Kerosene tins, Griffins biscuits tins, boulders, wood, driftwood, corrugated iron, concrete, glass.

Public NZAA Number

















Completion Date

29th July 2013

Report Written By

K. Warren, A. Dangerfield, K. Hurren, A. Tipene, A. Dodd, and B. Wagstaff

Information Sources

Allan, 1954

Ruth Allan, The History of Port Nelson, Whitcombe and Tombes, Wellington, 1954

Beaglehole, 2006

H Beaglehole, Lighting the Coast: a history of New Zealand's coastal lighthouse system, Canterbury UP, 2006

Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

Internationally and Nationally Important Coastal Areas, from Waimea Inlet to Cape Soucis. Nelson, 1996.

Mitchell, 2004

J and H Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o te Waka - A History of Maori of Marlborough and Nelson, Wellington, 2004

Waitangi Tribunal

Waitangi Tribunal Report,

Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui: Report on the Northern South Island Claims (WAI 785), New Zealand Waitangi Tribunal, Wellington, 2008, accessed 8 July 2013

Ingram, 2007

C Ingram, New Zealand shipwrecks: over 200 years of disasters at sea. [8th edition rev. and updated by Diggle, L, Diggle E. and K. Gordon 2007] Hachette Livre, Auckland, 2007 [1936]

Cawthron Institute

Cawthron Institute

History and Natural History of the Boulder Bank, Nelson Haven, Nelson, 1976

Warren, 2009

K. J. Warren, Rolling Stones – Nelson’s Boulder Bank: Its Place in Our History and Hearts. Nikau Press, Nelson, 2009.

Allan, 1965

R.M. Allan, Nelson: A History of Early Settlement. A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1965.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available, on request.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

Historic Area Place Name

Arrow/Fifeshire Rock
Artefact - adze, Midden
Artefact - bottle, Artefact - ceramic
Artefact - bottle, Artefact - ceramic, Midden
Artefact - historic, Midden
Bach A: Scott Bach
Bach B: Cederman Bach
Bach C: Harris Bach
Bach D: Robson Bach
Bach E: Inkster Bach
Bach G: Maxwell Bach
Bach site F
Bolton Hole
Boulder Bank Lighthouse
Building and winch
Building foundations (unspecified), Foundations, Garden - historic, Lighthouse
Foundations, Magazine
Haulashore Island
Midden and Argillite Roughout Findspot
Oven (intact), Midden
Shipwrecks and Underwater Heritage