By: Christopher Cookson
Another year has rolled around, and it's Marlborough Anniversary again. 2019 marks 160 years since Marlborough formally separated from Nelson.
Of course what is now known as Marlborough has been around far longer than it has been known as Marlborough.
We're reminded of that later this month with the Tuia 250 commemorations, marking 250 years since Captain James Cook's arrival in New Zealand, including a stay at Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound (Tōtoranui). Although James Cook was certainly bold, and explored new lands and made scientific observations of previously undocumented forms of life, he definitely wasn't going where no one had gone before, as that honour quite possibly belongs to another great navigator who made landfall in what is now Marlborough, some hundreds of years earlier. Kupe was no less a master navigator than Cook, and he truly could lay claim to boldly going where no man had gone before.
One can only wonder what passed through the minds of those first Polynesian explorers as they stepped ashore at the Wairau Bar to this strange new land of exotic birdlife, great forests, and wetlands. Unlike Cook, they left no written history, yet their history is written in the names given to the landscape features which tell tales of the people themselves, and their experiences in this new land. Aotearoa/New Zealand, was truly the final frontier on earth, as it was the last significant landmass to be populated by humans, and Marlborough is quite possibly where they first stepped ashore.
Before the first humans stepped ashore though, Marlborough had already experienced millennia of history, experiencing glaciation during the last ice age, along with movements of the mighty Alpine Fault to raise mountain ranges in places, and to cause land to sink in others. In this ever changing environment, many unique plants and animals made their homes long before the first human arrived.
While Marlborough might have been part of the final frontier on earth, it's certainly not the end of the universe, and perhaps rather fittingly, it was a former Marlburian who was the director of the JPL (later becoming part of NASA) at the time the US launched its first satellite.
The boundaries, and even the name of the region we currently know as Marlborough have certainly changed over the years, but one thing that seems to remain consistent is a pioneering spirit in the people associated with our region.
Today, as we enjoy a public holiday to commemorate the official founding of Marlborough, it's worth celebrating all those pioneering people, some of whom quite literally put Marlborough on the map.
Happy Marlborough Anniversary