The early years
The first buildings at the Grey River mouth were constructed by Ngati Wairangi Maori at Cobden. European settlement followed the discovery of coal and gold.
Greymouth, the district’s largest centre, lies beside the Tasman Sea and the Grey River. Greymouth experienced a rapid change in the cultural makeup of the region, reflecting an influx of migrants drawn to the gold rush, mining and related business opportunities.
As Greymouth developed, it became vulnerable to flooding. After two major floods in 1988, the Greymouth floodwall project was undertaken. Completed in 1990, the floodwall provides security for the town, and has allowed commerce to develop further.
Mawhera Quay flood, 1905
A Māori settlement at Māwhera pā was long established on the south bank of the Māwheranui river. When the first European explorers, Thomas Brunner and Charles Heaphy, arrived in 1846, they stayed at the pā, and were given food. Two years later Brunner travelled up the river, which he renamed after Governor George Grey.
James Mackay negotiated with local Māori chiefs for purchase of the West Coast region by the government, and the agreement was signed at Māwhera pā on 21 May 1860. One of the few Māori reserves was the land around the pā, now forming the main business district in Greymouth, and most of this still remains in Māori ownership.
A range of books are available on the history of Greymouth and the Grey District. Contact the Grey District Library>> for further information, or check out the on-line library>> catalogue to see what is available. The History House Museum>> is an excellent source of information about the rich history of the West Coast.