Today's shipping liners make entry to Port Nelson look easy,
but it wasn't always this way. Haulashore Island was connected
to the Boulder Bank until The Cut was made in 1906. It was
one of the first major jobs tackled by the Nelson Harbour
Board. A contract was let in 1902 for the construction of
the dredge John Graham - named for the board's first chairman.
Progress on The Cut was never straightforward - the board
fell out with its engineer, there were cost overruns and a
disastrous decision in 1906 to open The Cut before it had
been fully dredged. Once the strong tidal currents were flowing
through it was difficult to dredge further and work stopped
when the bottom of the channel was a width of 76 metres -
half of that shown in the original plan. Nonetheless The Cut
was a vast improvement on the old entrance and was officially
opened on July 30, 1906 when the Union Company's ferry Rotoiti
steamed through, loaded to capacity with 800 passengers.
Lighting the Way
Nelson's lighthouse was installed in 1861, and is still a local landmark. The cast-iron structure was built in England by Stothart and Pitt of Bath, and was shipped to Nelson in parts. Up until 1915 the light was oil fired and was tended by the two keepers who lived with their families in wooden cottages alongside the lighthouse. The head keeper for the first 30 years was John Kidson who raised seven daughters and three sons on the Boulder Bank. In more recent years the light was gas powered and automated. By the 1970s increased housing on the Port Hills provided too much competition for the light and it was decommissioned on its 120th birthday, August 4 1982. In 1983 the Historic Places Trust gave the lighthouse an 'A' classification.
Sending Off the Apple Crop
The apple industry in Nelson dates right back to the 1850s, when Wellingtonians were the first outside the region to enjoy a juicy Nelson apple. By the turn of the century the trans-Tasman trip had been reduced to five days and apple exporting began. In the 1930s fruit exports to the UK were putting pressure on port facilities. Fruit loaded on board during a hot Nelson day was kept warm on the trip through the tropics and reached the market in poor condition. The journey from tree to market took several steps with boxes stacked and restacked before being slung into the cargo hold. Damage was inevitable, especially when sling ropes squeezed the cases at the top of each load. In the 1950s modern handling methods using pallets and forklifts started to evolve, and in 1957 the half-million case landmark was met for the first time in exports from Port Nelson.
The Early Days
The first chart of Nelson was drawn up by Captain John Stokes
in 1850. In those days the Waimea flowed out to sea at Tahunanui,
where KFC now stands. Across the river mouth lay the huge
Waimea sandbank. The water from the Maitai and the Nelson
estuary met the outflowing Waimea, west of Haulashore Island,
where the swirl of their junction created Bolton Hole. This
area, named after the emigrant ship Bolton which arrived in
Nelson in 1842, was up to 20 metres deep and gave ships a
mooring place at the foot of what is now Richardson Street.
The chart gives points of reference for finding the entry
to Nelson, in the rocky gap between Haulashore Island and
Arrow (Fifeshire) Rock.