Mackay Street was named after James Mackay, a Scotsman who worked for the government while New Zealand was still a developing nation. Mackay came to New Zealand with his parents. They settle in the Nelson area where his father owned a large farm. Mackay owned a block of land on his own account.
One of Mackay’s strength’s was his ability to liase with the Maoris. He was often called to settle disputes between Maoris and Miners. James Mackay’s father got him a job as a native secretary and it was while in this role that he was sent south and asked to purchase land, some 7,500,00 acres. Mackay purchased the whole of Westland for some 300 pounds in 1860.
The deed was written in language which was written in such language that only someone with a legal mind could have understood. Mackay almost lost the results of all his negotiations, for on his return to Nelson, via the Buller when disaster struck, with his despatch bag strapped to his back, his canoe which was his form on transport upset. The bag, which contained that very important document, the Deed, the field book of native reserves, and 100 pounds of sovereigns, and his important compass were almost lost, but Mackay managed to save himself, and his valuable treasure by clinging desperately to the upturned canoe. He ended up on shore at Cobden.
Official copies of the land purchase can be seen at the library of the Lands and Survey Department, Christchurch.
Mackay was later sent to Auckland to assist in dealing with the Maori wars because he knew their language and custom. The Waikato wars was ongoing and Mackay was asked to mediate when he was sent to Thames. Mackay persuaded Ngatahi Maru from joining the war. Some of the Maori’s had their land confiscated, a fact that Mackay wanted known to the Waikato. He was arrested as a result.
Mackay married Eliza Braithwaite at Nelson in 1863, they had one daughter. Mackay died at Paeroa in 1912. A memorial plaque for James Mackay was unveiled in 1942.
Mackay Street history
Mackay Street was home to many high street stores during its history! The older generation will remember going to Woolworth’s or McKenzies during the 1960s & 70s. Later there was Farmers Trading where Postie Plus had their store later on.
Today Mackay Street is home to several cafes, banks, travel agents, stationary, taxi office, Electrical stores, photo shop, Vodafone and Spark shop, Sports goods shop, shoe shop, Cycle shop & locksmith, jewellers, hairdressers and many others.
The town has endured some horrendous flooding in the past with the floods of 1905 and 1988 particularly challenging for the locals with Mackay Street under several feet of water. A new flood wall was built in early 1989 and this has saved the town from many a flood since.
West Coaster’s who have returned to the area after being away a few years will notice some changes with the new town square at the Mawhera Quay end of Tainui Street. This gives the town a new and modern look and hopefully will leave on impression on the tourists who visit Greymouth.