Nelson is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, and is the economic and cultural centre of the Nelson region. Established in 1841, it is the second-oldest settled city in New Zealand and the oldest in the South Island and was proclaimed a city by royal charter in 1858.
Nelson city is bordered to the west and south-west by the Tasman District Council and the north-east, east and south-east by the Marlborough District Council. The city does not include Richmond, the region's second-largest settlement. Nelson City has a population of around 46,437 ranking it as New Zealand's 12th most populous city and the geographical centre of New Zealand. When combined with the town of Richmond which has close on 14,000 residents, Nelson is ranked as New Zealand's 9th largest urban area by population.
Nelson is well known for its thriving local arts and crafts scene, Each year, the city hosts events popular with locals and tourists alike, such as the Nelson Arts Festival. The annual Wearable Art Awards began near Nelson and a local museum, World of Wearable Artnow showcases winning designs alongside a collection of classic cars.
A view of Nelson from the "Centre of New Zealand"
Nelson was named in honour of the Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated both the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Many roads and public areas around the city are named after people and ships associated with that battle and Trafalgar Street is the main shopping axis of the city. Inhabitants of Nelson are referred to as Nelsonians. Nelson's Māori name, Whakatū, means 'build', 'raise', or 'establish'.
In an article to The Colonist newspaper on 16 July 1867, Francis Stevens described Nelson as "The Naples of the Southern Hemisphere"..Today, Nelson has the nicknames of "Sunny Nelson" due to its high sunshine hours per year or the "Top of the South" because of its geographic location.
As a unitary authority, the Nelson City Council has the combined responsibilities and functions of both a territorial (local) and regional council. This is different from most other local authorities in New Zealand. More often a regional council is a separate organisation with several territorial authorities (city or district councils) within its borders. Other unitary authorities are the Auckland Council, Gisborne District Council, Marlborough District Council, Tasman District Council and the Chatham Islands Council.
The Nelson City Council currently holds its elections under the First Past the Post electoral system once every three years, with the most recent election held on 12 October 2013. Electors vote by indicating their choice for Mayor by placing a tick beside one of the names and the person who receives the most votes becomes Mayor. Councillors are elected the same way, with the 12 candidates who each receive the most votes becoming Councillors. Voters in this system may vote for no more than 12 candidates. The elections are conducted by post over a three-week period to make it as convenient as possible for people to vote.
The other option permitted under the Local Electoral Act 2001, but not currently used in Nelson, is the Single Transferable Vote system. Electors vote by ranking candidates in order of preference by placing a number beside each candidate's name. The elector can vote for one or up to the total number of candidates on the paper. The number of votes required for a candidate to be elected, the quota, depends on the number of positions to be filled and the number of valid votes.
Under the Local Electoral Act 2002, the Nelson City Council can resolve to change the electoral system to be used for the next two elections, and it must review this decision every six years. A referendum was held in 2003 to decide which electoral system would be used for the 2004 and 2007 Nelson City Council elections. The outcome was that the First Past the Post system was retained. The 2008 review retains that system for the 2010 and 2013 elections.
On 12 October 2013, Rachel Reese was elected as Nelson's first woman mayor after receiving 1,500 votes more than incumbent mayor Aldo Miccio.