History of the Mapua Wharf

The Beginning and the Wharf’s Purpose

Mapua WharfThe first wharf in the vicinity of Mapua was situated at the end of Bronte Road. It was known at the time as Bronte Landing. Not long after, the wharf was relocated with the jetty being moved closer to the entrance into Mapua, known as the Western Entrance.

In 1912 it was announced that a shed was to be installed for the safe-keeping of produce. In 1913 the jetty needed to be upgraded to allow for the growing export of fruit from around the area. This started the era of Mapua as a fruit shipping port, beginning with regular shipments of up to a tonne of strawberries a week. Mapua celebrated the building of the wharf and the success of the business that it was bringing to the small area of Mapua.

A more substantial wharf was built in 1915 and with that came requests for a road joining Mapua to Appleby and to Motueka.

The Rise and Fall of The Mapua Wharf and surrounding areas

As the wharf became an export area for the burgeoning apple industry’s produce more people came to Mapua, and more amenities and services to support them.

In July 1921, 33,865 cases had passed over the wharf since the beginning of the year, showing a remarkable increase of business around Tasman. By 1948 export numbers had grown massively, with 550,000 cases passing over the wharf in the apple season.

In 1922 a newly built wharf officially opened on the 3rd of February. This led to the Nelson Port having very little participation in the exporting of fruit from the Nelson Region, as they were able to get bigger ships into Mapua.

However all this was reasonably short lived, as the Waterside Workers strike hit New Zealand in 1951. It created a state of emergency nationwide and signalled the end of the wharf as a fruit shipping port. Six months of apple exports were lost at Mapua. Port Nelson resumed loadings first and soon picked up the Mapua trade, with its better facilities. It was a tragedy for Mapua. Shipping was the centre of the community. The Wharf had provided many jobs which were lost. Orchardists were forced  to use alternative transport, taking produce to Nelson by road. By 1957 it became obvious Mapua was past its ‘heyday’ as a shipping port.

After Commercial Shipping

In 1987 the Nelson Harbour Board was planning to pull the wharf down. A  group of locals rallied together to try and keep the wharf. They went to the Nelson Harbour Board to ask what could be done and it was suggested that they form a boat club. They got a 14 year lease on the wharf, including the surrounding sheds. However the “law changed and ownership was passed to the Tasman District Council”. The boat club became responsible for the upkeep of the wharf deck, while the council maintained the substructure.

The wharf is now a thriving tourist centre; it has a combination of restaraunts, boutiques and galleries.

Since the closing of the wharf as an export centre, no other commercial vessel has ever crossed that sand bar. The Aroh  was the last commercial vessel inside the ‘Western Entrance’. Instead the estuary is now filled with recreational boats, children sea biscuiting and water skiing and people fishing.

This story is sourced and adapted from Bryony Blackmore’s article, ‘Mapua’s Changing Tides’ www.theprow.org.nz