When I first began looking at the New Zealand Company I must admit I didn’t quite realise what I’d be in for, expecting just a brief search through emigration records. Once I began, however, I quickly got sucked into a world of manipulative political dealings, life-and-death journeys and murky contracts – and that was just trying to book a microfilm reader!
Of course there are actually a large number of freely available resources on the New Zealand Company, including an excellent set of microfilms at the Central Auckland Research Centre, covering everything from emigrants’ original applications for free passage to letters of reference and land purchases. However, the resource I found most interesting was something different…
Included is the 1840 map of Wellington on its original site, complete with its own Covent Garden and Billingsgate Fish Market, all on the banks of the Hutt River. There is also the first map of Wellington as we know it today. The ruler-straight roads can be seen running up the sides of Wellington’s notorious hills and if ever you’ve laboured up a particularly steep street in the country’s capital or have struggled to find a car park on ground flat enough that your handbrake will hold, you now know who to blame: the New Zealand Company’s first Surveyor General and author of the map, William Mein Smith. This online plan also lets you investigate every original section, and the order in which they were chosen – from lot 215, a prime waterfront location (at least until the land reclamations) to lot 524, just above the cemetery and chosen 993rd!