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Nelson Anniversary Day – February 3, 2025

Nelson Anniversary Day is celebrated every Monday closest to February 1 to commemorate the establishment of the settlement of Nelson by the New Zealand Company on February 1, 1842. This year, it falls on February 3. Did you know that before the establishment of the city of Nelson, the city site was occupied by the indigenous Māori people, who called the place ‘Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui’ (The Prow of the Canoe of Maui)? Nelson, also known as ‘Whakatu’ in Māori, is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. The city is well-known for its local arts and crafts scene, including its beaches and bays and the clearest freshwater springs in the world. The city of Nelson is the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand.

History of Nelson Anniversary Day

The history of Nelson can be traced to the 12th century, when its first inhabitants, the Māori people, settled in the region. The Māori occupied the Nelson-Marlborough regions, also known as ‘Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui,’ quarrying argillite and developing areas around the region. In the early 1600s, a section of the Māori tribe, the ‘Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri,’ launched warfare against other sections of the tribe, becoming the dominant tribe. But their dominance lasted until the early 1800s when a northern tribe led by ‘Te Rauparaha’ destroyed the local population and occupied the area.

In January 1770, the British, led by Captain James Cook, undertook a voyage to New Zealand, where they explored the Nelson region. During the expedition, Captain Cook named the sea between the North and South Island ‘Cook Strait,’ and the places on the land, Queen Charlotte Sound and Ship Cove. The latter became their landing port for their subsequent expeditions to New Zealand in 1773 and 1777. In May 1840, the British signed a treaty with the Ngāi Tahu chiefs, after which they claimed possession of the entire South Island.

After founding its settlement at Wellington, the New Zealand Company began looking for more arable land to occupy. The Company sent out three ships to survey the upper South Island for a suitable area for a new settlement called Nelson. Arriving at the Kapiti coast, the New Zealand Company representatives negotiated and purchased land from ‘Te Rauparaha.’ On November 1, 1841, the first settlers were shipped off to Nelson. On September 17, 1841, Fifeshire, carrying the first immigrants from Europe, set sail from London. It arrived in Nelson on February 1, 1842, having lost more than a dozen of its passengers. The arrival of the European immigrants marked the beginning of the annual commemoration of Nelson Anniversary Day.

Nelson Anniversary Day timeline

12th Century
The Settlement of Māori People

The Maori people make a home in the Nelson-Marlborough regions.

January 1770
The Voyage to Nelson

The voyage led by Captain James Cook explores the Nelson region.

May 1840
The Treaty

The British sign a treaty with Ngāi Tahu chiefs, subsequently claiming ownership of the entire South Island.

February 1, 1842
The First and Last Voyage of Fifeshire

Fifeshire arrives with the first European immigrants from London.

Nelson Anniversary Day FAQs

Who celebrates Nelson Anniversary Day?

Nelson Anniversary Day is celebrated by people living in the northern half of South Island, New Zealand.

Is Nelson’s anniversary a public holiday?

Yes, it is a public holiday. It is given as an off-work day for people living in the Region of Nelson.

What is the anniversary day in New Zealand?

Anniversary day is when people in various regions in New Zealand commemorate the arrival of European immigrants and the founding of provincial settlements in their respective regions.

How to Observe Nelson Anniversary Day

  1. Relax and chill

    Nelson Anniversary Day can serve as a day for you to relax from a busy week at work. You can use the day to engage in activities like yoga or go to a resort, spa, or massage parlor.

  2. Attend a Nelson Anniversary Day event

    Every year, some events take place across the Nelson region to celebrate Nelson Anniversary Day. Check online or your local library for the ones happening near you.

  3. Share the history of Nelson

    The Nelson region and the city of Nelson have a rich and exciting history. If you are an inhabitant, you can get the world to know more about it by sharing its history on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Don’t forget to include pictures; they tell a compelling story.

5 Interesting Facts About New Zealand

  1. It shares a national anthem with England

    ‘God Save The Queen’ is one of two official anthems of New Zealand.

  2. The land of Middle Earth

    New Zealand is the only place you can visit Hobbiton and spend money with hobbits on the coins.

  3. It has more sheep than people

    New Zealand has six sheep for every person living in the country.

  4. The clearest waters in the world

    The Blue Lake in the Nelson Lakes National Park has a visibility range of about 80 meters.

  5. The last country inhabited by humans

    New Zealand became inhabited by humans only 800 years ago.

Why Nelson Anniversary Day is Important

  1. It creates an opportunity to reflect on the past and present

    The New Zealand government introduced anniversary days for people to reflect on the country’s past and its impact on the present. As a Nelsonian, you can use Nelson Anniversary Day to reflect on the significant events that have occurred in the region’s history leading up to the present day. And determine what needs to be introduced to create a better and more equitable future for all Nelsonians.

  2. It is a celebration of the development of the Nelson region

    The arrival of European immigrants and the establishment of settlements changed the Nelson region’s historical trajectory. With them came innovations in agriculture, economic, and political systems. It also deepened the ties between New Zealand, Europe, and North America, which have survived till today.

  3. It serves as a day to get together with family and friends

    As a public holiday for people living in the region of Nelson, Nelson Anniversary Day is a time for family and friends to get together and share their experiences of the year so far and plans for the rest of the year. Family and friends can also get together to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Nelson Anniversary Day dates

2022January 31Monday
2023January 30Monday
2024January 29Monday
2025February 3Monday
2026February 2Monday

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