House and Property Research in Nelson

A guide from Nelson Public Libraries to information held at the Library, Nelson City Council, Nelson Provincial Museum and Land Information New Zealand to help you find the history of your house, or a specific property. This is primarily for historic research, but the information is also useful for newer properties.

Do it yourself

You can do a lot of research at the Library and online at no cost, before going to Land Information New Zealand, Nelson Provincial Museum or your local Council office:

  • Has the house already got a Heritage New Zealand listing? Further information may be held about the house. 
  • Check the original town plans to locate a section (town plan) number:
    1842 town plans are available on Te Ara: Nelson town blocks and Nelson country blocks (including Motueka)
  • Top of the South Maps
    This provides current boundary and property information, for example LINZ ID, Certificate of Title (CT number) and legal (DP) ID and some other details (eg. rating value, land area).
  • Deed information
    The deeds’ system was the main way property ownership was recorded in New Zealand before the land titles system. Available 1840-1924 for Nelson, Marlborough, Westland and Canterbury Land Districts online via Archway.
    Use advanced search and the records search path. In the accession field enter CH1034 for the Nelson Land District and search. From the results, look for the statement “Digitised record available” click on this statement to download file.
    This information is not easy to search or browse. See below for accessing Deeds information via LINZ.
  • Newspapers
    Property section numbers will enable a search for articles, notices and advertisements about the property (limit your search by date and newspaper titles). Titles are available approx. 1842-1922 on Papers Past.
  • Street Directories – provide information about who lived in your house and what type of area it was. Wises Directory, 1866-1954, is available on Ancestry Library database, accessible at Libraries. Nelson Public Libraries (NPL) hold telephone directories from 1940 and some other directories.
  • Electoral rolls - List adult voters at a particular address. Early rolls gave information about occupation and whether residence was leasehold or freehold land and section numbers, which may need to be located on maps of the time (town acre plots) as they do not match current street numbers. Held in print NPL from 1963 and on Ancestry database – 1853-1981
  • New Zealand Gazette (the official Government newspaper and authoritative journal of constitutional record) includes commercial information, such as Land Transfers, Joint Family Homes and other official land notices.
    Held in print 1841-2000 at NPL. Available online from 1993.
  • Appendices to Journals of House of Representatives (AJHR or A to J’s) - government-related reports published every year from 1858. Includes information about Crown lands, settlements etc. Available NPL 1858-2011 and online 1854-1950. 
    The Provincial version of the Gazettes and AJHR’s are available at NPL in print and/or microfilm vol. 1 (1853) - vol. 25 (1876)
  • Photographs:
    - Nelson Provincial Museum:
    - DigitalNZ:
    - Nelson PhotoNews (1960’s/70’s)
  • Published sources
    Books on early architecture can help identify features and styles and tell you how old your house is, e.g. Jeremy Salmond/ Old New Zealand houses (held NPL).
    You may be lucky and find information in local books about your property – check the library catalogue, and browse contents pages of relevant books in our Nelson Heritage collection.
  • Architectural information
    Look at your house. Architectural features can tell you how old it is. Indications of an older property are:
    - A steep roof pitch
    - Thicker timbers
    - Rough faces – wood was sawn by circular or pit methods.
    - Rusticated rather than bevel backed boards.
    - Good quality materials - house quality started to decline from about 1912 in terms of materials and workmanship.

Property Information at Nelson City Council

The Council can provide access to property files, useful resources and other archival information. There may be a charge if you are not the site owner.  Direct your initial enquiry to the Customer Service Centre.

  • Property Files
    The earliest records held on file begin c1930 and may include:
    - Consents and Permits – Town Planning / Resource and Building (may include geotechnical reports and drainage as-built plans), Swimming Pool
    - Project information memorandum (PIMS)
    - Seismic evaluation reports
    - Airspace leases, liquor licences, fire authentication, road reserve licences and licence to occupy
    - Enforcement notices
    - Correspondence
  • Heritage Precincts 
    A ‘real life’ snapshot of architectural styles through time.  Refer to the online precinct. Design Guides for a description of the history, visual characteristics and special nature of each precinct.
  • Digitized Historic Aerial Imagery
    Aerial imagery is periodically captured for the Nelson region and is available in electronic form dating back to 1943.
  • Cemetery Plot Records Searches  
    If you have information about who might have lived in or owned a house, locating and viewing their cemetery plot headstones can be useful.  Headstones often provide useful date ranges; may mention who the deceased was related to and in some cases, describe their occupation or contributions to the local community.  This sometimes helps to tell the story of the house you’re researching:
    - To spatially locate the plot, use Top of the South Maps website. Search by Surname, pick a name and click on the More Information link (left hand pane) to display the cremation or burial details.
    - Alternatively, you can search for plot location details by surname or date using the council website
  • Council Archives
    Other relevant information may be held in the archives (in Council minutes, early correspondence, subject files, rates books).  Your request will need to be very specific to ensure council officer’s target their research appropriately to give you accurate results.

Property information at the Nelson Provincial Museum – Research Facility

The Research facility at Isel Park has material relevant to property research. You must make an appointment and provide information about your research to get the best out of your visit. Information which is only held at the Museum, in the Nelson region, includes:

  • Rating/ valuation rolls
    Easier to use if you know the name of an early occupier/ owner. Obtain DP (deed of purchase) and CT (Certificate of title) numbers from LINZ or Council to ensure you have the correct information regarding subdivision of the original Town Acre section. Some indexing is available
  • Cadastral maps
    These include section numbers and occasionally owner’s names
  • Subject files
    Houses, Nelson, Houses, Nelson Province from Newspaper clippings about historic and old houses in the region
  • Named houses and properties file (generally pre-1930)
  • Photographic collection
    The historic glass plate negative collection is extensive – some of the collection has been digitised. Check: 

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

LINZ Christchurch holds Nelson property and land records – some historic records are held by Archives New Zealand.  You can order LINZ records online, for a charge. 
You can also visit LINZ youself, but an appointment must be booked in advance.

What you need to start a historic house search at LINZ:

  • Current CT (Certificate of Title number)
  • Current  DP (Deposited Plan number)

This will allow a trace on previous CT numbers and a reference to the earlier Deeds Index number (see above re searching Deed information via Archway). Historic CT’s and Deeds record all the leases, mortgages, transfers of land, subdivisions pertaining to a given section and may include owners’ names, and building footprints.  
You can also obtain property reports and CTs from QV for a charge.

Employing a researcher

There are some local researchers who will investigate the history of your house:

  • Staig and Smith 5484422              
  • Rosalina McCarthy 035451067
  • Ampersand Architects 5444870
  • Land link  5469952
  • Liz Parkes 548924