The earliest settlement of Nelson was by Maori, who came to the area approximately 700 years ago. Some evidence points to the Nelson region actually being one of the first places settled in New Zealand. By the early 19th Century, the original iwi (tribes) which had first come to live in the area had been pushed out by the Ngati Toa iwi.
Settlement of Nelson by British emigrants was planned extensively by the New Zealand Company in London. British settlers were brought over to the Nelson region on the ships Will-Watch, Whitby, and Arrow to establish what was known as the “Second Colony of the New Zealand Company”. Nelson was given its name in honour of the of the famed British Admiral, Horatio Lord Nelson.
More settlers arrived in 1842 on the migrant ships named Fifeshire and Mary Ann. Immigrants from Britain were drawn to Nelson by an opportunity to escape the rigid class system back home, and to create a new (hopefully improved) standard of living. As more settlers arrived in the area, including some from Germany and Italy, native timber forests were cleared, livestock bred, and the township grew rapidly.
Nelson was the second city in New Zealand (after Christchurch) to be declared a city. It has become a popular place to live and visit, due to the sunny climate, friendly locals, and more affordable living in the region.