Historical Timeline of Marlborough


Last Modified: 18-3-2023 17:53

A historical timeline of a selection of significant events in the history of Marlborough.

  • ~14,000 years ago, end of last ice age and formation of Marlborough Sounds
  • ~1300AD First Polynesian settlers arrive in New Zealand at Wairau Bar.
  • 1642 December Abel Tasman spends a week in Cook Strait.
  • 1770 Captain James Cook makes his first visit to the Marlborough Sounds and Ship's Cove.
  • 1774 Cook's second visit to the Marlborough Sounds
  • 1777 Cook's third and final voyage to the Marlborough Sounds.
  • 1826 Captain John Guard establishes the first land based whaling station in the South Island at Cloudy Bay.
  • 1828 Te Rauparaha captures pa at Kaikōura
  • 1828 Te Āti Awa migrants from Taranaki establish settlement at Waitohi (later to become Picton).
  • 1829 August. Colonel Edward Gibbon Wakefield of the New Zealand Company arrives at Meretoto/Ship Cove to begin a survey for subsequent colonisation.
  • 1838 Eurpoean discovery and exploration of Pelorus Sound (Te Hoiere) by Lieutenant Chetwode aboard HMS Pelorus.
  • 1840 Reverend Samuel Ironside establishes mission station at Ngakuta Bay
  • 1840 17 June.  British sovereignty proclaimed over the South Island at Horahora Kakahu Island, by Major Bunbury.
  • 1842 Whaling station established at Kaikoura by Robert Fyfe.
  • 1842 5th August  Opening of first permanent church by Reverend Ironside.
  • 1843 17 June  "The Wairau Incident" at Tuamarina as a result of conflict over land.
  • 1846 first mob of sheep driven into Marlborough over Tophouse by Nathaniel Morse and Dr John Cooper
  • 1848 Earthquake estimated at magnitude 7.5 centred in the Awatere Valley
  • 1850 Blenheim founded. (Originally known as 'the Beaver')
  • 1850 Land at Waitohi purchased from Te Āti Awa to establish town of Picton.
  • 1855 Following a magnitude 8.2 earthquake in the Wairarapa, the Wairau Lagoons subside sufficiently to enable navigation of the lower Wairau and Ōpaoa rivers by small ships.
  • 1858 Surveying to establish town of Havelock.
  • 1859 1 November. Marlborough established as a province after separating from Nelson province.
  • 1860 Marlborough elects first Provincial Council.
  • 1864 Gold discovered at Wakamarina.
  • 1864 April - Taupae-o-Uneuku, Marlborough's highest peak climbed for the first time.
  • 1865 Blenheim becomes provincial capital
  • 1866 The first telegraph cable accross Cook Strait to Whites Bay.
  • 1866 First Roman Catholic church built in Blenheim.
  • 1866 Marlborough Express begins publication.
  • 1866 Molesworth cob cottage built by John (Cornelius) Murphy.
  • 1870 First lighthouse built at Cape Campbell.
  • 1875 Picton railway opened.
  • 1887 Wairau Hospital established on current site.
  • 1888 Gold discovered in Cullen's Gully near Linkwater.
  • 1900 Marlborough High School opens.
  • 1900 Freezing works opens in Picton.
  • 1905 Flaxbourne Station acquired and subdivided by the government establishing the town of Ward.
  • 1916 Pollard Park (formerly Waterlea Park) established.
  • 1917 Opawa River Bridge completed.
  • 1918 Blenheim Amateur Operatic Society (Now Blenheim Musical Theatre) formed.
  • 1927 Waihopai hydro-electric power station began generation.
  • 1928 First flight from New Zealand to Australia by Charles Kingsford Smith in 'Southern Cross' departs from Woodbourne.
  • 1929 Marlborough Aero Club begins flying operations.
  • 1945 Main trunk line linking Picton to Christchurch by rail opens.
  • 1949 Production of salt begins at Lake Grassmere.
  • 1954 January 16th, Queen Elizabeth II visits Blenheim.
  • 1957 July, French Pass road opened
  • 1961 NAC begins Fokker Friendship flights to Woodbourne.
  • 1962 First roll-on roll-of interisland rail ferry, the Aramoana begins operation across Cook Strait.
  • 1962 Private road to Tennyson Inlet opened.
  • 1962 November 20. First successful swim across Cook Strait by Barrie Devenport.
  • 1965 Taylor Dam flood protection completed (Largest earth flood protection in NZ).
  • 1967 Tru-Jen sets a new New Zealand water speed record of 126.74 mph on 18 March.
  • 1968 Brayshaw Park established.
  • 1973 First commecial vineyard plantings by Montana.
  • 1973 Marlborough wins the Ranfurly Shield
  • 1979 10th January Farmers fire
  • 1979 Queen Charlotte Track developed.
  • 1983 Branch River hydro-electric generation begins operation.
  • 1983 July. Tuamarina flood results in evacuations from Tuamarina, Spring Creek, and Renwick.
  • 1985 Inaugural Marlborough Wine and Food Festival
  • 1986 Mikhail Lermontov Soviet cruise ship sinks in Port Gore on February 16 after hitting rocks in the Marlborough Sounds.
  • 1986 Sounds Air begins passenger operations.
  • 1989 Formation of Marlborough District Council as a result of local government reforms.
  • 1990 Safe Air ceases flying operations after 40 years.
  • 1990 Blenheim Riverside Railway officially opens.
  • 1992 Strait Shipping begins freight service across Cook Strait.
  • 1996 Sounds Air Cessna Caravan crashes into Mount Robertson in heavy cloud, killing 5 passengers
  • 1998 January 1. Ben Smart & Olivia Hope disappear in the Marlborough Sounds.
  • 2000 Boxing Day fire on Wither Hills
  • 2001 Inaugural Classic Fighters airshow at Omaka.
  • 2006 December 9. Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre opens.
  • 2007 Marlborough Convention Centre and combined Clubs of Marlborough opens on former RSA club site.
  • 2010 Crown settlement with Te Tau Ihu tribes.
  • 2012 Joseph Sullivan from Picton wins gold in men's double sculls at 2012 Olympics in London
  • 2013 Magnitude 6.6 earthquake centred at Lake Grassmere on August 16.
  • 2014 April, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine visit Blenheim.
  • 2016 Magnitude 7.8 earthquake on November 14, with epicentre near Culverdon in north Canterbury, ruptured multiple faults up Kaikōura coast.
  • 2016 ASB Theatre opens beside Clubs of Marlborough beside Taylor River
  • 2022 Clubs of Marlborough goes into receivership and closes


AA Historic Places of New Zealand 1990 Hodder and Stoughton.

A Pictorial History of New Zealand Shirley Maddock 1988 Heinemann Reed

Old Marlborough T. Lindsay Buick 1900 - reprint 1976 Capper Press

The First Hundred A. Beverley 1969 Blenheim Borough Council

Cite this page

Cookson, C. (2023). Historical Timeline of Marlborough. Retrieved May, 29, 2024, from