Our story

Our legal status:

We are an Incorporated Society and a registered Charity.

Tasman District Council supports Golden Bay Museum Society (Inc) through annual grants, and use of the building the museum occupies. We very much appreciate this support, without which the museum would not be able to operate at the level it currently does.

Museums and libraries are identified as core services under the Local Government Act 2002.


Our Mission: To preserve and interpret the history of Golden Bay/Mohua.

We do this by:

  • Collecting, maintaining, preserving and documenting the Museum collections.
  • Creating displays, exhibits and publications.
  • Maintaining an accessible archive and library for genealogical and social history research.
  • Promoting appreciation and enhanced understanding of Golden Bay/Mohua’s cultural heritage for the enjoyment, education and enrichment of both the wider community and visitors.

within a framework of good governance, professional standards, and a commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.


We celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2015, but our heritage connections go far deeper. The stories we share have links to the earliest knowledge of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Golden Bay/Mohua History: An Introduction
Coastal settlement in Golden Bay/Mohua began around 1300 with descendants of the Kurahaupo canoe. Ngati Tumatakokiri came here in the late 1500s and were the people of Aotearoa who had first contact with Europeans, when the ships of Abel Tasman’s voyage of discovery sailed into Golden Bay/Mohua on 18 December 1642.
That first meeting ended in conflict and death off the shores of Wharawharangi Bay (near Separation Point/Te Matau), but New Zealand and its people had been put on the world map for the first time. It’s an historical event of very great significance. There is no earlier written record, no earlier known meeting.
Between 1642 and when English settlement began in the 1840s, tribal warfare resulted in changing patterns of occupation. Golden Bay/Mohua became the place of Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa, the manawhenua people of this area and kaitiaki (guardians) of its special places, such as Te Waikoropupu Springs.
The establishment of a New Zealand Company settlement in Nelson (1842) brought surveyors, mining, timber mills, horses, farmers, shipping, roads, churches, hotels and schools. Signs of a new way of life that changed Golden Bay/Mohua for ever.
All these strands are woven into our collections and exhibitions.

How We’re Growing:
Our collections began with those of the former Takaka Museum, owned by Margaret Wilson QSM, long-time resident of Golden Bay/Mohua. In 1985 a group of local people agreed to purchase her collection, raising $75,000 over several years, a big effort from a small population of around 4,000. It’s a diverse and interesting collection in its own right.
In 1989 further fundraising and grants saw the former Post Office (now the Golden Bay Gallery) bought and restored. The purpose-built exhibition building, designed by Wellington architect James Beard, was opened on 15 October 1990. Since then two extensions have been added, housing the growing documentary collections that support research and exhibitions. A climate-controlled Archive room (2000) is named after John Crockford, staunch supporter of the museum.
The property is now owned by Tasman District Council, which also provides an annual grant covering much of the museum’s running costs. We rely on extra income from donations, grant applications, retail sales and research fees to support our day-to-day operations.
Golden Bay Museum Society Inc. operates the museum, and a team of community volunteers supplements the part-time staff.

Our Special Interests
The 1992 visit of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands led to increased awareness of the significance of Abel Tasman’s 1642 voyage in local and national history. As a result, New Zealand’s only permanent displays were established, with Robert Jenkin’s diorama-seascape that continues to attract visitors from around the world. It recreates the drama of that first meeting and also presents supporting documentation.
To this has been added a larger scale model of the Heemskerck by Nelson craftsman Ron Aaron; a computer-based interactive, and the museum publication Strangers in Mohua: Abel Tasman’s Exploration of New Zealand (2000). The book is a well-illustrated educational resource.
Other collections with significant educational value relate to the social and natural history of the Golden Bay/Mohua area.

Mainly by donations, we develop and conserve resources for future local history research through photographs, diaries, maps and other records. These supplement our permanent displays based on taonga (treasures) of both Maori and European heritage. Changing exhibitions mean we can tell a wide cross-section of social and other stories.
As Golden Bay Museum Te Waka Huia o Mohua embarks on its second 25 years, we look forward to continued growth in our collections, and being able to make use of digital technology to increase awareness of our resources—and the Golden Bay/Mohua story.