AND THE MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS NEW ZEALAND
is a town in Marlborough, in the north east of the
South Island of New Zealand. It has a population of
29,700 (June 2008 estimate). The area which surrounds
the town is well known as a centre of New Zealand's
wine industry. It enjoys one of New Zealand’s
sunniest climates, with hot, relatively dry summers
and crisp winters.
Marlborough region in which Blenheim is situated
has a wide range of leisure activities, from swimming
with dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds to watching
whales in Kaikoura; from walks through the bush
and along the rugged coastline, as well as scenic
boat cruising, fishing, water-skiing and kayaking.
The relaxed lifestyle and the flourishing wine and
gourmet food industry in Marlborough are enjoyed
by both locals and visitors alike.
is named after the Battle of Blenheim (1704), where
troops led by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
defeated a combined French and Bavarian force.
commercial hub of Marlborough (population 42,300)
is Blenheim (population 28,200). Originally a provincial
service town to the farming community, it is increasingly
geared towards urban lifestyle, visitor needs and
the dominant wine industry, a meld of modern sophistication
and relaxed ambience. North is Picton (population
3,700), seaport gateway to the stunning Marlborough
Blenheim is the
focal point for the Marlborough wine growing region.
A number of wineries are located on the towns edges,
with many more just a short drive away.Synonymous
internationally for its distinctive, herbaceous Sauvignon
Blanc. It is New Zealands largest winemaking
region with around 65 wineries and 290 grape growers
and over 4000 hectares planted in grapes, mainly Sauvignon
Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris
The annual Wine Marlborough festival (second Saturday
in February each year) is held in Blenheim. It is
a show-case for the region's bounty and draws people
from all over the world to taste Marlborough's wines.
is also known for its idyllic Sounds, sunken valleys
which create a network of tranquil clear waterways
amidst regenerating and virgin native forests. The
Sounds are home to treasured bird and sealife terns,
shags, herons, blue penguins, dolphins, seals, and
native forest birds, all easily viewed by private
boat or charter tour. The renowned 71km Queen Charlotte
Track, a 3-4 day walk, curls around these coves
and inlets and along skyline ridges between the
breathtaking Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds
has a diverse economy, emerging from a base of primary
industry. The largest sector, apart from tourism,
is aquacultureprimarily Greenshell mussels, along
with oysters, salmon, paua, and fresh water crayfish.
Wine is a major player, with vineyards taking over
central and southern valleys from traditional cropping,
stonefruit orchards and sheep. However, sheep and
cattle farming remain a major contributor, including
high country stations specialising in finest merino
wools. Forestry and commercial fishing are strong
in the North. Technology based industry and consultancy
is increasing as more people shift to Marlborough
for the environment and lifestyle.
The sheltered coastal
bays of Marlborough supported a small Maori population
possibly as early as the 12th century. Anthropologists
have christened this part of central Aotearoa, Waenganui,
a region that stretched from inland Ureweras to
Kaiapohia. Maori in the Marlborough Region cultivated
crops, including kumara (sweet potato) and exploited
Although the early
history of Marlborough was closely associated with
the Nelson settlement, the people of Marlborough
wanted independence from Nelson. Nineteen years
after the original Nelson settlement the request
of Marlborough settlers was granted, and Marlborough
became a separate province in 1859. Although gold
was discovered in the province in the early 1860s
the boom did not last and, while it helped to expand
the region, the development of pastoralism provided
the greatest long-term benefits. Marlborough squatters
developed huge sheep runs that dominated the countryside,
rivalling Canterbury's sheep stations in size and
Today the region's
economy is still rurally based with pastoral and
horticultural farming, providing a major source
of income. The region's inhabitants continue to
utilise the marine resources. Lake Grassmere is
the country's only source of salt, and fishing and
mussel farming are also extremely important in the
region. Grape growing has been one of the fastest
growing industries and Marlborough is now New Zealand's
largest wine producing region, receiving worldwide
recognition for its sauvignon blanc wines. Olive
growing has also become popular in recent years.
The sunny, pleasant
climate has attracted people to the region, either
as holiday-makers or as permanent settlers. The
region is especially popular among retired people,
as well as people seeking an alternative lifestyle.
Rapid population growth and other factors though
have led to a contemporary chronic shortage of affordable
housing for low and middle income earners.
Blenheim, situated on the
Wairau Plain, is mostly flat with surrounding hills,
which do not, however, give it as much protection
from prevailing winds as might be expected. Open
areas in and around Blenheim are hit quite hard
by winds blowing in from Cook Strait. Blenheim sits
at the confluence of the Taylor and Opawa Rivers.
Blenheim is in a tectonically active zone and experiences
several (usually small) earthquakes each year. The
boundary between the Pacific plate (on which Blenheim
sits) and the Indo-Australian plate passes just
north of Blenheim.
The Marlborough region is famous for its wine production,
although other forms of agriculture are significant
and the services sectors is also important.
With the growing international critical recognition
of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, much of the wine
industry has come to be dominated by large firms,
owned by major New Zealand companies or offshore
investors. Wages for most industry participants
are low (around NZ$10-NZ$13/hour) and often calculated
on a piece rate basis. Employment arrangements are
often insecure and frequently not in accordance
with New Zealand employment law. Agricultural land
prices in the Wairau Valley have increased dramatically
in value through the 1990s and 2000s.
Overall, income and wealth distribution in the
town and wider region is highly uneven by New Zealand
The first school was opened in Blenheim in 1859.
By 1875 there were three classes: Blenheim Upper
Boys, Blenheim Lower Boys, and Blenheim Girls and
Infants. A Blenheim High School was formed within
the school in 1879.
Catholic schools for boys and girls also were established
in Blenheim in 1872. St Mary's Boys' school replaced
it in 1886. In 1929, St Mary's was rebuilt after
A coeducational secondary school called Marlborough
High School was founded in Blenheim in 1900. It
moved to the Marlborough Boys' College Stephenson
Street site in 1901. In 1919 it changed its name
to Marlborough College. The intermediate section
was split to form Bohally Intermediate in 1956,
and the girls moved to form Marlborough Girls' College
in 1962, at which time the school took its current
Marlborough Boys' College is a boys' secondary
(years 9-13) school with a roll of 1006. Marlborough
Girls' College is a girls' secondary (years 9-13)
school with a roll of 1029. Both have a decile
rating of 7.
The other schools in Blenheim are all coeducational.
Bohally Intermediate is an intermediate (years
7-8) school with a roll of 407 and a decile rating
Blenheim School and Whitney Street School are contributing
primary (years 1-6) schools with decile ratings
of 3 and 5, respectively. Blenheim School has a
roll of 81, and Whitney Street School has a roll
St Mary's School is a state integrated full primary
(years 1-8) school with a decile rating of 8 and
a roll of 376.
Other primary schools are in the suburbs of Redwoodtown,
Witherlea, Mayfield, and Springlands, and in the
surrounding localities of Fairhall, Grovetown, Rapaura
The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
has a campus in Blenheim.
Airport is a domestic airport and is also used by
the RNZAF as an operational base. There are direct
flights from Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.
Omaka Aerodrome, to the south of the city centre,
is used solely by private and vintage aircraft pilots.
An airshow (based mainly on World War I and II aircraft)
is held at Omaka Aerodrome every two years on Easter.
Highway 1 runs through Blenhiem and State Highway
6 terminates at the junction of the two state highways.
Blenheim is notable for a town of its size, in that
it does not have traffic lights at any intersection.
Instead, roundabouts were installed to speed arterial
traffic flow. Since the installation of these roundabouts,
traffic volumes have quickly increased and upgrading
options are being considered, eg. traffic lights,
longer 2-lane approches and even a bypass.
is on the northern section of the South Island Main
Trunk Railway. A daily long-distance passenger service
between Picton and Christchurch, the TranzCoastal,
stops at the Blenheim Railway Station.
major railway classification yard is located north
of Blenheim at Spring Creek.
heritage railway, the Blenheim Riverside Railway
runs through the town.
and points of interest
south of the town centre, is the setting for the
biennial Classic Fighters Marlborough airshow. The
show, with a large emphasis on aircraft of World
War One, has been held biannually since 2001, with
the next show set to be held over the weekend of
10-12 April 2009.
In December 2005
the third meeting of the biennial Australasian Ornithological
Conference series, initiated and organised by the
Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, and jointly
sponsored by the RAOU and the Ornithological Society
of New Zealand (OSNZ), was held in Blenheim.
Seymour Square and
Pollard Park are two of the town's main attractions
for walks and general tourism.
The first weekend
in February sees the festival "Blues, Brews
and BBQ's", which comprises of Blues and Jazz
music, food and a variety of Beer and wine. It starts
at 12pm and ends at 7pm, and its located at the
A and P park near Redwood Town.
The Wither Hills
are just out of Blenheim and have many attractive
walks found just off Maxwell Road. They are dry
and arid and have seen many severe forest fires
in the past.
The GCSB Waihopai
communications monitoring facility, part of the
ECHELON network, is situated near Blenheim.