After European settlers arrived and scattered small farms throughout the Marlborough Sounds, passing ships would sometimes deliver mail, supplies and news.
Lorain Day, author of Time and Tide – The story of the Pelorus Mail Boat wrote that supplies and mail were brought in by sailing ship, then shallow-draughted scow, and produce from the farms brought back to town, in what was a very irregular service largely dependent on weather and tides.
The 1864 Wakamarina goldrush brought people in their thousands, necessitating a proper mail service between Picton and Havelock. The mail was transported using two whaleboats rowed by brothers George and Jack Aldridge who walked from one boat to the next from the head of the Grove Arm to Mahakipawa.
They were eventually replaced by steam-powered vessels including the SS Torea and horses from The Grove. The Torea serviced Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui with a weekly mail service, and took tourists as well.
The first government delivery
But, there was still no regular service to the more than 400 people living in Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere, wrote Lorain, and - following a public outcry - the Homewood Post Office opened on 1 September 1869, with the first delivery by government steamer in that year. The post office moved to Mary’s Bay in 1870 – both are still regular stops for the Pelorus Mail Boat today.
Initially the steamer delivered all the mail to one location for residents to collect, but as the population grew the steamer put the mail ashore at several small post offices throughout the area. People then had to row to these points to pick up their mail.
Private mail service
In 1918 the Government put the mail service out to private operators and Wellington-Havelock mail service began under Mr J.S. Cross, wrote Lorain, in the wooden screw steamer Waitapu.
Well-known Marlborough Sounds whaling name Eugenio Perano used the SS Elsie to carry out a very long mail run in a single day every two weeks until the service passed to Dalgey & Co Ltd.