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.

1890s close up photo of Huria Matenga. She wears a korowai (tasselled cloak) around her shoulders.

Image: Huria Matenga by Eric Ramsden. Collection: Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/2-078265-F.

Which people can I learn about?

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

Arthur Wakefield (1799-1843)

Arthur Wakefield (1799-1843)
Agent of Nelson settlement.

Find out about Arthur Wakefield
Te Rauparaha (?-1849)

Te Rauparaha (?-1849)
Māori leader.

Find out about Te Rauparaha
Hūria Mātenga (1840-1909)

Hūria Mātenga (1840-1909)
Māori heroine.

Find out about Hūria Mātenga
Appo Hocton (1820-1920)

Appo Hocton (1820-1920)
First Chinese immigrant to New Zealand.

Find out about Appo Hocton
Kate Edger (1857-1935)

Kate Edger (1857-1935)
Suffragette and Principal of Nelson College for Girls.

Find out about Kate Edger
Cyril Saunderson Spear (1878-1958)

Cyril Saunderson Spear (1878-1958)
WWI soldier and diarist.

Find out about Cyril Spear

Tips: These are just some examples of people you could research. You may have someone different you're interested in finding out about. Just use their name as your search terms in the resources below.

Local iwi:

Note: Iwi are listed in alphabetical order. This list was put together to the best of our knowledge. If there are any other iwi to be included, please let us know.

Nelson resources

Here are some local Nelson websites and collections that can help you learn about individual people or groups of people from 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. As well as articles about the people, places, businesses, and events in our district's past, the Prow also links to other recommended websites, books and articles for each topic.

  • Choose People to explore stories about the people who have played a significant, or interesting, role in the history and life of the top of the South Island of New Zealand.

  • Select Māori to explore the Māori history of Whakatū.

  • You can also enter keywords in the search box.

Tips: Local websites can be good for looking at how things have continued or changed over time. Remember, stories can be told in different ways so it’s helpful to look at multiple information sources to find different perspectives.

Nelson Photo News

The Nelson Photo News was a monthly magazine published between 1960 and 1974. It provides a unique photographic record of life in Nelson during this time.

  • Choose Browse to look at editions through the years

  • or select A-Z People to browse by people and places.

Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō

This website is created by Ngāti Apa ki Te Rā Tō and features news, information and history.

  • Select Resources and then History.

  • From the side menu, choose Our Origins and Our Rohe to explore the history and whakapapa (genealogy) of this iwi.

Tips: Some websites have .iwi in their url. This tells you that the website belongs to an iwi and likely has Māori knowledge (mātauranga Māori).

Ngāti Koata

This is the website of Ngāti Koata and covers current and historical information about the iwi.

  • Select Tiaki Taonga.

  • Choose Our History to read about the history of this iwi.

  • Or select Tiaki Taiao to read about Ngāti Koata's kaitiakitanga (guardianship and conservation) of the land.

  • We explored this website and enjoyed the videos and stories at He Reo Nō te Puehu.

Ngāti Kuia

The website, coming from Ngāti Kuia, has information about this iwi's history, people and businesses.

  • Select About us.

  • Choose History to read about the stories and traditions of Ngāti Kuia.

  • Or look at Taiao to explore some of the businesses that Ngāti Kuia run today.

  • Select Resources and check out some Videos and documentaries.

Ngāti Rārua

This website comes from Ngāti Rārua, who have created a collection of stories to share.

  • Select Who we are.

  • Choose Our Story to find out about Ngāti Rārua's many journeys including their Treaty claim.

  • Or select Our Assets to read about the iwi's business activities.

Ngāti Tama ki Te Tauihu

This is the website of Ngāti Tama ki Te Tauihu. It holds stories and histories of this iwi and of their tūpuna (ancestors).

  • Select Ngāti Tama ki te Tauihu.

  • Choose Our History to see how this iwi arrived in Te Tauihu.

  • We explored Te Reo me Ōna Tikanga and found Tikanga o te Marae where we read about the Māori customary practices when visiting a marae.

Ngāti Toa Rangatira

This website comes from Ngāti Toa Rangatira (Ngāti Toa) and contains information and history on the iwi.

  • Select Taonga to explore the history and read about the tūpuna (ancestors) of this iwi.

  • Find Settlement to read about the Ngāti Toa claim to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Rangitāne o Wairau

This website comes from Te Rūnanga a Rangitāne o Wairau, which represents Rangitāne iwi members. It has information on iwi history, businesses and services.

Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui

This is the website of the Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust which represents those Te Ātiawa people who whakapapa to Te Tauihu. The website covers iwi organisations, news and history.

This website documenting the joining of Marlborough Boys' and Girls' Colleges and relocation of Bohally Intermediate School. The project has ended, but the website has some excellent articles contributed by the local iwi of Te Tauihu.

  • Select Ngā Kōrero Tuku Iho.

  • Explore the stories of four Wairau (Blenheim) iwi whose rohe extends into Whakatū.

  • These are Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and Rangitāne o Wairau.

Nelson Provincial Museum

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 the name or a group of people in the search function.

  • Choose an object to find out more.

  • Or select the Person tab.

  • Select a person to find objects related to them. Some records have a short biography.

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.

  • Select Biographies and then browse through the alphabet to read about famous New Zealanders.

  • To find out about Nelson iwi, go to Māori New Zealanders and then Iwi.

  • Te Tau Ihu tribes explores iwi migration to the Top of the South and land loss after colonisation.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography is part of Te Ara and has over 3,000 biographies of New Zealanders. It also has around 500 biographies in te reo Māori. However, this site does not have biographies of living people.

  • Use the search bar and enter the name of a person.

  • Or you can use the Advanced Biographies Search.

  • Use filters to search for people eg Region, Tribal Affiliation, and Birthplace.

  • If you want to find digital versions of primary sources, use the menu on the left to change from Dictionary of New Zealand Biography to Images and Media.

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 filter by title, region or date.

  • You can also search using the name of person or group of people.

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

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats, (eg articles, books, images, videos, primary sources, sets, websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.


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.

  • Search for the name of a person or group of people.

  • 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 biographies related to the place.

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

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

Events of Nelson

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

Learn about events of Nelson