History of Tasman District
According to Māori tradition, the canoe Uruao brought ancestors of the Waitaha people to this area in the 12th century.
Archaeological evidence indicates the first Māori settlers explored the region thoroughly, settling mainly along the coastline where there was an ample food supply. The abundance of seafood, birds and favourable gardening conditions for kūmara made this land sought after.
Most villages were on the coast, close to river valleys. The location of each settlement was planned with both transport and food in mind. Waka were used around the coast and up river valleys.
In 1642 Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer from whom the district takes its European name, sailed into the waters of Golden Bay. After a confrontation with local Māori he sailed eastwards.
A succession of tribes into the area suggests considerable warfare interrupted tribal life. About 1828, Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha and the allied northern tribes of Ngati Rarua and Ngati Tama, began their invasion of the South Island. They took over much of the area from Farewell Spit to the Wairau River.
The first immigrant ships from England arrived in 1842 and the European settlement of the region began under the leadership of Captain Arthur Wakefield. By the 1850s agriculture and pastoral farming had begun and villages were being established on the Waimea Plains and at Motueka. In 1856 the discovery of gold near Collingwood sparked New Zealand's first gold rush.
In 1871 the famous scientist Ernest Rutherford, later to become Lord Rutherford, was born in Brightwater.
Fruitgrowing started at the end of the 19th century. By 1945 it was making a significant contribution to the local economy and that importance continues today.