Marlborough a fascinating land

First settled by the tangata whenua (men of the land) a thousand years ago, explored by the Moa-Hunters, visited by Abel Tasman in 1642, later still by Cook in 1770, used as a base by whalers, frequented by the Maori warrior Te Rauparaha, scene of the Wairau Massacre. In the 1820’s the great Maori warrior Te Rapauraha, who was North Island based, would make raids across the Cook Straight into the upper South island. Te Rapaurahas warriors were armed with a new weapon, the musket, obtained from white men (pakeha), and opposition tribes fighting with traditional weapons were quickly overpowered. Te Rapauraha gained control of much of the Marlborough region in this fashion.

The Wairau Massacre, or as it now called, Wairau Incident, occurred in 1843 when English settlers, led by the the New Zealand Company, tried to wrongly gain control of the Wairau Valley. In a confrontation between representatives of the NZ Company, who had come over from Nelson, and Maori, including Te Rapauraha, shots were fired and many of the pakeha (white men) paid full price with their lives in an unfortunate and unnecessary event.

However progress cannot be easily stopped and by the late 1840's the wild days were over with English settlers arriving en masse and seeking the promised land. An arrangement was entered into whereby the Wairau was purchased by the Crown and thereafter settlers and development set in, with 34,219 acres allotted to primarily pastoral farmers.

These pioneers of the Wairau found themselves in an area of divine architecture. Historically a flood plain, with glacial retreat over thousands of years, the rivers and streams continually flooded and washed silt, gravel and rock down the valley, depositing them as it went until the valley was deepened and broadened until the water finally reached the sea at Cloudy Bay. This resulted in a valley of deep shingle and silt/loam soils, which in turn was surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges and with the sea on the fourth side. Protected from cold southerlies by the mountains, with long sunshine hours, low rainfall, and low frost risk in the lower valley this land was truly made for the grape divine architecture you might say.

In 1875 the first wines were produced in Marlborough, with several different wineries operating. These wineries were very low key, and wine was continued to be produced in small quantities for almost a 100 years. Then in 1973 the large wine company Montana planted their first vineyard in Marlborough. As these commercial wines were starting to be released this caught the attention of other winemakers and soon there was a flurry of new plantings and the real beginning of Marlborough as a wine region on a commercial and international scale.

Marlborough now is a thriving wine region, and is very much a destination for wine lovers and tourists from all over the world. Many of the wineries have restaurants attached to them, and there is a wide range of accomodation and other activities available.

World famous wineries, exquisite seafood and local produce, sailing in the idyllic Marlborough Sounds, whale watching in Kaikoura, local art and crafts, native forests and outdoor activities the Marlborough region is ideally situated for visitors to experience a wealth of Kiwi adventures.

For further information; Destination Marlborough (www.destinationmarlborough.com)