There is limited knowledge of the first settlement of the area before the first European contact, however carbon dating suggests that humans entered the area in the 9th century AD.
The area around what is now Abel Tasman National Park, was much sought after and quickly settled as there was an abundance of bird and sea life, along with favourable gardening conditions for the growing of Kumara (sweet potato).
1642 – THE FIRST EUROPEANS
Abel Janszoon Tasman, a Dutch seafarer, became the first European to sight New Zealand on December 13, 1642. Arriving off the coast of (what is now called) Golden Bay, he sent some of the ship’s boats to gather water, but one was attacked by Māori in a waka (canoe) and four of his men were killed. Following this and a further attack, Abel Tasman sailed further north, never in fact landing in New Zealand.
The first European to land in New Zealand was Captain James Cook, who did so in 1769, mapping the New Zealand coast.
THE EARLY SETTLERS
Whalers and sealers established seasonal camps in the early 1800s. The first European settlers were brought to Nelson by the New Zealand Company in October 1841. They explored the Riwaka, Moutere and areas around the Motueka and Waimea rivers. By 1858, Nelson had 434 wooden buildings and 27 of brick or stone. The population was predominantly European, including a small settlement of Germans who were the first to introduce winemaking and also specialised in growing fruit trees and hops.
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
Some 300 years after the arrival of Abel Tasman, the Abel Tasman National Park was officially opened. It is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but definitely one of its most enjoyable and interesting ones.
Abel Tasman National Park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. It has a mild climate and is an ideal place to visit at any time of the year (but we would say that!!).
Sources: www.tasman.govt.nz/tasman/iwi/maori-history & The Encyclopedia of New Zealand