Nelson Haven, Trafalgar cycleway and the Atawhai Landfill

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In pre-European times the Haven and the Maitai River formed a mahinga kai or food gathering destination for Māori. Seasonal camps were occupied to gather nature’s bounty.

Charles Heaphy sketch (1852) Maitai River showing hop gardens and windmill. Nelson Provincial Museum. AC815
Click image to enlarge

At that time the tidal mudflats extended much further inland than is the case today. In later years, properties on Wainui and Weka Streets were washed by high spring tides. Weka Street was named after the wetland birds once common in the area. The flats were used for target practice, with permanent rifle butts built in the 1890s, and they provided a great playground for childhood boating activities.

Reclamation in Nelson Haven. (1885)Note Trafalgar Park at Maitai River mouth. Nelson Provincial Museum, Misc 1/2 47
Click image to enlarge

From the 1950s this area was gradually reclaimed, using spoil taken from adjacent hillsides and town refuse, providing an area for active and passive recreation. In 1983 a new road entrance to the city came with the opening of Queen Elizabeth II Drive, forming the boundary of recreation zone land along the Haven (now Neale Park, Founders Park and Miyazu Gardens). 

The Atawhai Landfill

The Atawhai Landfill was sited on an area now bounded by State highway 6/Queen Elizabeth Drive, Atawhai Drive, North Road, Weka Street and Sovereign Street. This land was reclaimed from Nelson Haven with fill consisting of municipal, and some food processing, waste from the 1930’s until the current Nelson Landfill in York Valley was opened in 1987. Waste disposal technology appears to have been progressively improved over the period with more recent areas being filled in clay bunded (but not completely lined) cells and covered with progressively better standard capping material.

Landfilling with waste started from the south western side of the site (approximately current Weka St/Sovereign St corner) and progressed north east. The first section of the embankment, which was constructed to form an embayment area for reclamation/landfilling, is located where the present North Road runs.  Landfill activities then continued in the area along Weka Street and Atawhai Drive inside the North Road embayment area.

By 1948, an embankment was also constructed from Sovereign Street and connected to the North Road embankment to form a large reclamation embayment area. Landfilling in this area started in 1948 and continued up to 1955. Landfilling then took place along the area between North Road and Atawhai Drive and continued in that area until 1966. Between 1948 and 1960, the North Road embankment was further extended to form a new embayment area with a new embankment constructed from Sovereign Street. Landfilling commenced within this embayment and continued until 1972. 

By 1970 an embankment perpendicular to Atawhai Road was build opposite Walters Bluff. A new embayment area was formed by 1972 when the Northern Outlet embankment was connected to the Walters Bluff embankment. Landfilling commenced in this area in 1972. An additional embankment was constructed from Cemetery point along the alignment of the future state Highway 6 and landfilling started in this area during 1977. Once this area was filled (by 1982), further landfilling took place on top of the existing cover in two areas.  This continued until the City’s present landfill (York Valley) was commissioned in 1987.

Reclamation work was ongoing throughout this period. Buffer zones around the landfill areas were filled with excavation spoil to form a barrier between the landfill and residences. These practices became progressively more sophisticated over time with specific emphasis on these edge strips during the development of the area at the northernmost tip of the site.

Some of the reclaimed land between the North Road embankment and Atawhai Drive was redeveloped by 1948 with other sections progressively developed after this date. Neale Park, Whakatu Marae, Founders Park and the Nelmac Nursery are now sited on this land.

The Trafalgar Cycleway

In 2005 the Trafalgar Cycleway/ walkway was opened, running from Trafalgar Street to Atawhai Drive, adjacent to Neale Park and Queen Elizabeth II Drive. This was extended to Clifton Terrace School in 2008, to become the Atawhai shared pathway.

Places along the Trafalgar shared pathway:

Grove Station
Constructed in 2004 as a town stop for the Founders Park Railway Line. A plaque there commemorates the start, in 1960, of a proposed railway to Blenheim which did not proceed.

Looking across the tidal estuary to Nelson from Cemetery Hill at high tide (1890). The area covered by water has all been reclaimed. Nelson Provincial Museum Tyree 8X10 279. Click image to enlarge

Peace Grove - Kia Hora Te Maungarongo
Planted to commemorate the United Nations International Year of Peace.

Guppy Park
The Park is named after Syd Guppy (1903-1982) who was an active participant in a great number of different sports and then gave his time in local and national sports administration. He emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1926 with his wife. They farmed at Martinborough in the Wairarapa, moved to Wellington in 1927 where he  opened a grocery business and which he ran from 1936 to 1952 when he semi-retired to Nelson.  In Nelson Mr Guppy was a passionate follower of many sports and brought together an interesting sports collection at his residence "Dorset House',  3 Moncrieff Street, Nelson.

Syd retired from active participation in soccer in 1960, after playing for 48 years then became an important figure in the administration of the sport. In 1962, 64 and 66 he represented New Zealand at the F.I.F.A. World Congress meetings in Santiago, Tokyo and London; was a member of the New Zealand Football Association Council (9 years) and the Junior Council (11 years) and has held the presidency of the Nelson association since 1959. He was the president-elect of the New Zealand association. In the swimming world he won six life-saving awards, swum the River Thames in mid-winter and ended his competitive swimming shortly after his 60th birthday. At his home he hosted many well known sporting figures.

Neale Park
Named in honour of ER (Gar) Neale, descendant of a pioneer family, who became deeply involved in the Nelson community. He served as Mayor and local Member of Parliament and had strong sporting interests, particularly cricket.

Wakapuaka Cemetery showing the tide covering the area now reclaimed (1893). Nelson Provincial Museum. AC295
Click image to enlarge

Newman Grove
Sir Jack Newman, a descendant of the pioneering Newmans transport family, carried on its traditions. He was a prominent figure in the community and gave strong support to the establishment of Founders Historic Park. Rotary Club members planted Newman Grove in natives as a backdrop to the Miyazu Gardens in 1990.

Haven Holes Esplanade Reserve
This area adjacent to QEII Drive  was created in the late 1990's/ early 2000's, from council deposited dredgings from the Nelson Marina development. In 2005 it was planted and managed to create a habitat for coastal and marine birds. The area has significance for Iwi as a traditonal food gathering place, a habitat for taonga species and is of spritual significance.

The "shipwreck"at Kinzett Terrace
At low tide an abandoned hull can clearly be seen on the mudflats near Kinzett Terrace. This was the The Argus, a 36GRT schooner built at Melbourne, Australia in 1854.  It was wrecked and written off at Lyttelton in 1877, later recovered, repaired and registered again at Nelson. It was re-rigged as a ketch, and the iron hull was sheathed in kauri timber in 1901. It was used in the coal trade between Nelson and Ferntown, and later the timber trade between Nelson and Riwaka. The tonnage was altered in 1913 to 38.67GRT 24.61NRT. It was laid up on the Nelson mudflats in the 1920s (its register was closed on 16 Feb 1922) and subsequently abandoned.1

This information is taken from a Nelson City Council heritage plaque, 2006 (updated July 2020)

Sources used in this story

  1. Archsite: http://www.archsite.org.nz/Allan, R., 1954, The History of Port Nelson. Whitcombe & Tombs, Wellington; Watt, M., 1962, Index to the New Zealand Section of all British Register of Ships 1840-1950. NZ Ship and Marine Society, Wellington; Westrupp, F., 2007, Blind Bay Hookers: Little Ships of Early Nelson. River Press, Dunedin; Haylock, Arthur Lagden 1860-1948 :[Sketchbooks] 1921-1931. Ref: E-292-q-5-010. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

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Further sources - Nelson Haven, Trafalgar cycleway and the Atawhai Landfill

Books

  • Haven Holes - Esplanade Reserve management plan : a partnership between Tangata Whenua, Department of Conservation and Nelson City Council. (2005) Nelson, N.Z.: Nelson City Council
  • Lash, M. (1992) Neale Family of Nelson. In Nelson Notables. Nelson , N.Z. : Nelson Historical Society, p. 113
  • North, M. (2007) The story of the friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay. Nelson, N.Z.: Friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay
    http://www.nelsonhaven.org.nz/FHNbooklet_web.pdf
  • Warren, K. (2009) Rolling Stones: Nelson's Boulder Bank. Nelson, N.Z. : Nikau Press

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