Farm Settlements for Returned Soldiers
During World War I (1914-1918) the New Zealand Government decreed that soldiers returning from overseas service would be given the opportunity to settle on farms of their own, specially purchased and developed for that purpose.
There would appear to have been two reasons for this decision:
- Young men serving in the defence forces lost time and experience in civilian jobs while serving their country and at the same time only receiving a set salary.
- The government could see the need for closer settlement on existing large farms (runs) and this would bring increased food production for local consumption and also export.
In 1915 the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act was passed which gave the Government authority to purchase suitable land for closer settlement. The existing owner of any land selected had the right to retain any part of his farm that constituted an economic unit and also the homestead block, with the balance taken under the Act making at least one economic unit.
A number of properties in Marlborough were acquired for soldier settlement including Erina (Wairau Valley) Alberton (Dillons Point), Moorlands (Rapaura), Linkwaterdale, Goat Hills, Wither and Bomford.1 The Government could assist the successful applicant to clear scrub, dig drains, erect buildings, purchase implements, stock, seed etc., with these costs being secured by a first mortgage. Title to the property was usually granted as leasehold with the right to freehold later. The successful applicant had to remain on the farm for ten years. If there was more than one applicant for a property, a ballot was held and all applicants could attend.
In 1943 (during WWII) a similar Act was passed and farm settlements named Greenhills (Kaikoura District), Sedgemere (Blind River), Speeds (Koromiko), Valleyfield (Avon area), Warwick (Awatere), Puhi Puhi , Lakes, Elms, Ludstone (Kaikoura area), Torodes (Omaka - orchards), Dashwood, Avondale, Motukawa (Rapaura), Totaranui, Clarence, Delta, and Corleggy (Awatere)2 and possibly others, were bought by the Crown, developed, subdivided and settled by returned soldiers. At least one of these farms has now passed down to the third generation of the original soldier.
There were conditions for eligibility for farms, including previous farming experience and how much personal money the applicant had available to put into the farm. On qualifying to apply for a farm, the applicant could choose which farm settlement(s) he would prefer and, if there were more than the required number of applicants (which was usual) for that settlement, a ballot was held which participants could attend and know the results immediately.
On returning from WWI my grandfather applied for sections in both Erina and Moorlands Settlements and was successful in obtaining Section 6S of Moorlands, which was bounded by Rapaura and Jacksons Roads and the Opawa River. I believe the family lived in a mud 'whare' already on the property until he could afford to build a modern bungalow. He remained on the property until retirement in the late 1940s. Previous to the war, he had worked on farms in Canterbury and also in the Waterfalls area (Awatere).
2012. Updated May 2020
Sources used in this story
- Archway. Retrieved from Archives New Zealand
- Marlborough Archives, Marlborough Museum
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Further sources - Farm Settlements for Returned Soldiers
- The War effort in New Zealand. In New Zealand in the First World War (1923). Auckland: Whitcomb & Tombs. Retrieved NZETC:
- Soldiers' settlement [Erina] (1916, December 7) Marlborough Express, p.8
- Diggers Viewpoint (1919, May 13) Marlborough Express, p. 7
- McAloon, J. (2009) Land ownership - Consolidation of land settlement, 1912–1950s. In Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- Settlement Since 1912 (1966) In McLintock, A. (ed.) An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (2009)