Events of Nelson

Many things have happened that have had an impact on Nelson, find out about them using these websites and collections.

1841 painting showing a barracks and tents to house the first Nelson settlers. In Tasman Bay are the first three immigrant ships.

Image: Heaphy, Charles, 1820-1881 :View of Nelson Haven in Tasman's Gulf, New Zealand, including a part of the site of the intended town of Nelson 1841. Drawn in November 1841 by C. Heaphy, Draftsman to the New Zealand Company. Collection: Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: C-025-015.

Which events can I learn about?

Here are some events related to Nelson you could find out about:


Wreck of the Fifeshire

Find out about the Fifeshire wreck

The Native Tenths Reserves

Find out about the Native Tenths Reserves

The Wairau Affray (also known as the Wairau Incident)

Find out about the Wairau Affray

The Maungatapu Murders

Find out about the Maungatapu Murders

New Zealand's first game of rugby

Find out about New Zealand's first game of rugby

World of Wearable Art

Find out about the World of Wearable Art

Tips: These are just some examples of events you could research. You may have something different you're interested in finding out about. Just use words related to the event as your search terms in the resources below.

Nelson resources

Here are some local Nelson websites and collections to help you explore events that have had an impact on Nelson.

The Prow

The Prow is a local website featuring historical and cultural stories from Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough. It is a collaboration between the Nelson City, Tasman and Marlborough District Libraries, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and The Nelson Provincial Museum, so its information is reliable.

  • Choose Events to explore stories about significant, interesting or unusual events which have occurred in the top of the South Island of New Zealand.

  • You can also enter keywords in the search box.

Tips: Stories can be told in different ways. It’s a good idea to look at multiple information sources about a topic to help you put together your own narrative.

Nelson Provincial Museum Online Collection

This is the online collection for the Nelson Provincial Museum, the oldest museum in New Zealand. This collection has Taonga Māori, manuscripts & archives, publications, social histories, and more.

  • Enter keywords related to an event in the search function.

  • Choose an object to find out more.

  • Under Refine results and Images attached, choose Yes.

Nelson Provincial Museum

This museum, started in 1841, is the kaitiaki (guardian) of social and natural history and Taonga from the Nelson and Tasman regions. Over 150,000 items can be looked at through its online collection.

  • Visit the museum to look at the exhibitions.

  • The Regional Gallery is a permanent exhibition that looks at the heritage and natural history of Nelson Tasman.

  • Look to the bottom of the page to find where the museum is and when it is open.

General New Zealand resources

These websites have good information about the history of New Zealand as well as Nelson.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we look down to the bottom of the page, we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Search using words that are related to something that happened in the past.

  • Choose an article to read.

Papers Past

This website is great for finding local primary sources as it has newspaper articles published in New Zealand.

  • Choose Newspapers and you will have the option to search by title, region or date.

  • You can also search using keywords like 'Chinese immigration' or a topic you are interested in like 'Maungatapu Murders'.

  • Then you can narrow down the dates and also choose newspapers from a local region.

  • We tried a search for 'Chinese immigration' in 3 titles from the Nelson region, selected

    Articles under the heading Content types and got lots of newspaper articles which show historical opinions and information.

  • We also found an account of the execution of the Burgess gang who committed the Maungatapu murders.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Enter a keyword related to an event.

  • Choose something to read.

  • Or you can also go to Places.

  • From the menu choose Nelson

    and then one of the places on the list eg Nelson City.

  • Look down the page to see articles about things that happened in Nelson.


DigitalNZ searches online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites in one place. It groups results by the type of information and has lots of primary sources.

  • Enter a keyword related to an event.

  • Choose something to look at.

  • You might need to then choose the button to View original item.

The New Zealand Wars

This website about the New Zealand Wars belongs to Danny Keenan, a Māori writer and historian. It offers a Māori view on the wars fought between Māori and the Crown.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. The paragraph at the top of the page tells you why this website has been written. Also check Danny Keenan's Published Works to find a link to Writing this site which is about the author and what went into writing this site.

The Aotearoa History Show

This video podcast from Radio New Zealand tells the story of Aotearoa New Zealand from when the land was formed to today.

  • Select an episode to watch or listen to.

  • Look under the video for the topics that the podcast covers.

Te Arawhiti | The Office for Māori Crown Relations

This government website has information about Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

  • Select Te Kāhui Whakatau (Treaty Settlements).

  • Then choose Find a Treaty settlement.

  • Look down the page to find the Deeds of Settlement for the iwi you're looking for.

  • The summary documents are good to start with and have an overview and historical background.

National Library of New Zealand

The National Library collects New Zealand's documentary taonga in words, sounds and pictures. They have content that is available online and some resources that can only be looked at in the library in Wellington.

We recommend starting off with a website search as this will search the National Library catalogue, the Alexander Turnbull catalogue, and more.

  • Enter your keywords in the search bar.

  • Use the Filters to get fewer results.

  • Filter by Type if you're looking for images, audio, or books etc.

  • The Availability filter lets you choose if you want items that are available online.

  • Filter by Date for when things were published.

  • You can also filter by Subject.

  • Select an item to look at.


Here are a few books about local Nelson history for you to look for at your school or local library. Your local librarian is a great person to ask for the best books about your local area.

Here are some books about general New Zealand history that you might find at your school or local library.

More about Nelson

People of Nelson

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about individual people or groups of people from Nelson.

Learn about people of Nelson

Places of Nelson

There are many places that are significant to Nelson, known as Whakatū in te reo Māori. Use the recommended resources to find out about their histories.

Learn about places of Nelson