Wairau was a parliamentary electorate in the Marlborough Region of New Zealand. It was one of the initial 24 New Zealand electorates and existed from 1853 until its abolition in 1938, when it was succeeded by the Marlborough electorate. The electorate had 13 representatives during its existence. The 1861 election in the Wairau electorate was notable in that a later Premier, Frederick Weld, was unexpectedly and narrowly defeated by William Henry Eyes.
The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, passed by the British government, allowed New Zealand to establish a representative government. The initial 24 New Zealand electorates were defined by Governor George Grey in March 1853. Wairau was one of the initial single-member electorates.
The initial area covered the Marlborough Sounds in the north to the Hurunui River in the south. Settlements within that area were Picton, Blenheim, and Kaikoura.
The Constitution Act also allowed the House of Representatives to establish new electorates, and this was first done in 1858, when four new electorates were formed by splitting existing electorates. The Cheviot electorate was formed by taking area from the Wairau and Christchurch Country electorates.
The Wairau electorate's boundaries were constantly adjusted over the years, but the electorate always covered a large, rural area around the Awatere River, with a long coastal boundary south of Cape Campbell, at times as far south as Kaikoura. Blenheim was always included in the electorate, but Picton not always.The 1918 electoral redistribution, which applied from the 1919 election, changed the shape of the electorate significantly, with it moving away from the Pacific Ocean coast to make way for the Hurunui electorate moving north. Wairau gained large areas of land south of Richmond. It also covered the Marlborough Sounds, and Blenheim was the southernmost point along the coast. The 1922 electoral redistribution reversed this and Wairau moved back to its traditional area. Wairau was abolished through the 1937 electoral redistribution, which came into effect with the 1938 election, and replaced by the Marlborough electorate, which had more or less the same shape as Wairau had had since the 1927 electoral redistribution.
Wairau was one of the original electorates for the first general election in 1853. Frederick Weld was declared elected unopposed at the nomination meeting on 2 August 1853.Weld resigned in June 1855 to return to England, but as the next election was to be held within a few months, this did not cause a by-election. The nomination for the 1855 election was set for 19 November, and this is the date recorded in the standard reference book, the New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984, for the election of William Wells, but that election did not happen. The mail did not reach the Wairau Valley in time, and the electors did not know about the election. The new date for the nomination meeting was set as 6 December. Wells was one of many members of the House of Representatives who resigned in early 1858; he placed a public notice to that effect in the 20 March edition of The Nelson Examiner. At the opening of the second session of the 2nd Parliament on 10 April 1858, the speaker read out 14 resignations, including that of Wells. Weld had returned from England by then and agreed to be a candidate at the by-election, and Alfred Saunders received an acquisition and also agreed to stand. On nomination day, only Weld's name was put forward, who was thus declared elected unopposed.
The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 gave Parliament the power to establish new electorates, and this was first used later in 1858 when four new electorates were created. This also affected the Wairau electorate, which was combined with the Christchurch Country electorate and then redivided, and the Cheviot electorate was established through this process.The 1859 supplementary election returned Edward Jollie for the Cheviot electorate.
In the 1861 election, Weld was challenged by William Henry Eyes, with Eyes winning by a four-vote margin (65 votes to 61).Weld stood two weeks later in the Cheviot electorate, where he decisively beat Charles Hunter Brown. At the 1866 election, Eyes was returned unopposed; the previous year, he had been chosen Superintendent of Marlborough Province. In 1871, Eyes was challenged by Henry Redwood but remained the preferred representative by the voters. In December 1871, Eyes was appointed Crown Lands Commissioner for the Marlborough Province and as a public servant, he could no longer hold a seat in parliament and had to resign. The resulting 1872 by-election was contested by Arthur Seymour and Joseph Ward, with Seymour the successful candidate. Seymour remained a member of the General Assembly until his resignation in 1875 prior to a trip to England. The resulting 1875 by-election was won by Ward, who defeated William Sefton Moorhouse. Seymour returned from England just prior to the 1876 election. George Henderson, a former Mayor of Blenheim, became a candidate in the Wairau electorate whilst Ward announced that he would stand in the Cheviot electorate instead. Seymour won the election in the Wairau electorate with 201 votes to 179 for Henderson. Ward was beaten in the Cheviot electorate by Leonard Harper. Henderson and Seymour both contested the 1879 election, with Seymour again confirmed by the voters.
In the 1881 election, Seymour was beaten by Henry Dodson, a former member of the Marlborough Provincial Council and a former Mayor of Blenheim.In 1884, Dodson defeated Joseph Ward. The 1887 election saw a three-way contest, with Dodson challenged by George Henderson and Sutherland John Macalister. Dodson won the election; this was Henderson's third attempt to become the Wairau electorate's representative. Dodson retired in 1890, and three candidates put their name forward: Lindsay Buick, Arthur Seymour, and Sutherland John Macalister. Buick, a journalist and historian, won the election. The Liberal Party was founded after the 1890 election and when it came to the 1893, Buick as incumbent and the barrister William Sinclair both stood for the Liberal Party, whilst the sheep farmer John Duncan ran as an independent. Buick won the election with an increased majority.
In the 1896 electoral redistribution, the neighbouring Waimea-Sounds electorate was abolished, and its area distributed to the Motueka, City of Nelson, and Wairau electorates. The incumbent of the Waimea-Sounds electorate, Charles H. Mills, lived in Havelock, and whilst the town was just within the City of Nelson electorate, most of Mills' traditional constituency was located within the Wairau electorate, and he thus challenged Wairau's incumbent, Buick, in the 1896 election.Buick and Mills received 2014 and 2072 votes, respectively, and Mills thus succeeded Buick in Wairau. The 1896 election was "one of the hardest fought contests" in the Wairau electorate up to that point. In the 1899 election, Mills was challenged by Walter Clifford, but Mills remained the preferred candidate by a greatly increased margin.
Liberal–Labour Liberal Conservative Reform United LabourIndependent
|1853 election||Frederick Weld|
|1855 election||William Wells|
|1858 by-election||Frederick Weld|
|1861 election||William Henry Eyes|
|1872 by-election||Arthur Seymour|
|1875 by-election||Joseph Ward|
|1876 election||Arthur Seymour|
|1881 election||Henry Dodson|
|1890 election||Lindsay Buick|
|1896 election||Charles H. Mills|
|1908 election||John Duncan|
|1911 election||Richard McCallum|
|1922 election||William Girling|
|1928 election||Edward Healy|
|1935 election||Ted Meachen|
|(Electorate abolished in 1938, see Marlborough)|
|Liberal||Charles H. Mills||2,786||66.35||+15.64|
|Conservative||Sir Walter Clifford||1,413||33.65|
|Liberal||Charles H. Mills||2,072||50.71|
|Liberal||Sutherland John Macalister||438||24.54||-1.58|
|Independent||Sutherland John Macalister||350||26.12|
|Independent||William Sefton Moorhouse||177||46.70|
|Independent||William Henry Eyes||102||61.82|
|Independent||William Henry Eyes||65||51.59|
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