It’s Nelson Anniversary today, commemorating one of New Zealand’s oldest cities which has been a fishing hub since long before Europeans arrived.

Shell middens (archaeological rubbish dumps) found around Nelson show that Maori relied on the sea for protein just as we continue to do today.

The first European settlers landed in Nelson on the ship The Fifeshire in 1842, commercial fishing then steadily increased from the 1900s when the Nelson Fishing Company installed freezers at the port.

Many decades later, in 1986, the beginnings of what would one day become New Zealand King Salmon was established in Nelson.

At the time, the company consisted of three separate entities: Southern Ocean Salmon (SOS – Te Waikoropupū Springs salmon farm), Marlborough Salmon Company (MSL – Hallam Cove / Waihinau Bay and Forsyth Salmon farms), and Pacific Salmon Processors (PSP – Bullen St, Tahunanui factory).

These companies merged in the early 1990s, and bought the Skeggs factory in Bullen St, and moved the office staff, then based in central Nelson, to Tahunanui, so everyone was in one location.

NZ King Salmon sustainability manager and long-time team member, Mark Gillard, says that during the ‘off season’, or winter, part of the processing plant was contracted to shuck scallops.

“We could do everything in the one building back then, scallops, gilling and gutting salmon and packing smoked salmon.

“I remember a floor to ceiling curtain that separated the different areas. Food safety requirements were stepped up and the stand-alone Ready to Eat (RTE) processing factory/ smokehouse was built off Merton Place and the scallop shucking was no longer.”

The company eventually established a year-round supply of King salmon, making it the first of its kind in New Zealand, says Mark.

“Over the next few years the corporate team outgrew the on-site offices, and we leased an office building on the opposite side of the road in Bullen Street.”

In 1996, the company began trading as The New Zealand King Salmon Co. Limited (NZKS), and in 2012 expanded its corporate offices to Beatty St where it still is today.

NZ King Salmon now employs 500 people across all its divisions, is the fifth-largest employer in the Top of the South, and more than 400 of the approximately 2,200 shareholders of the company live in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough communities.

We wish all Nelson residents a very happy Nelson Anniversary Day.

Port Nelson 1974 fishing boats (Photo - The Prow)

Port Nelson 1974 fishing boats (Photo – The Prow)