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Brightwater is located in New Zealand
Brightwater is in Tasman District
Coordinates: 41°23′0″S 173°07′0″E / 41.38333°S 173.11667°E / -41.38333; 173.11667
CountryNew Zealand
RegionTasman Region
DistrictTasman District
First Settled1843
33 m (108 ft)
 (June 2020)[1]
 • Total2,250

Brightwater (Māori: Wairoa) is a town 20 kilometres (12 mi) southwest of Nelson in Tasman district in the South Island of New Zealand.[2] It stands on the banks of the Wairoa River. Brightwater was first named Spring Grove. Alfred Saunders, the owner of a local flax mill situated on the banks of the Wairoa River and a prominent temperance activist,[3] renamed it Brightwater because of the clarity of the water in Wairoa River.[4] The settlement was named in 1855, but the area was settled as early as 1843.[citation needed]

Brightwater was the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning scientist, the "father of nuclear physics", Sir Ernest Rutherford,[5] and has an elaborate Lord Rutherford Birthplace memorial on Lord Rutherford Road.


Brightwater had a population of 1,745 at the time of the 2013 census, a decrease of 45 people (2.5 %) since the 2006 census.[6]


The sign outside Brightwater School.
Brightwater School

The town of Brightwater has one primary school, Brightwater School. This decile 9[7] school opened in 1888, and provides for children in years one though six, and it had 278 pupils, in 2010. Brightwater School is located on the main street of the village. The school is made up of six buildings: three blocks of three classrooms; a block of two classrooms; a reception area and library; a dental clinic and a reading recovery building; a sports / gear shed; and a boiler house. The school also includes two sports fields, two playgrounds, a hardcourt area, a large shade structure, an adventure playground, a swimming pool and dressing sheds.[8]


Brightwater is mainly an agricultural town. Because of its climate of little rain, it is hot from October through March, and it commonly experiences frosts during the winter. The main agriculture of the area is wine growing.

The Kaimira Ventures Winery lies just outside the town. In about 1850 a flour mill was built near the present winery site. The singing of the mill owner, which included the refrain "Bright water, bright water, bright water for me", is alleged[by whom?] to have been the origin of the town's name. The mill was later converted into a hydro-electric power station, the second in New Zealand. The town had five street-lights installed, together with another ten in the neighbouring town of Richmond. The lighting was switched on and off by a device linked to a chicken perch - as the chickens went to roost in the evenings the lights were turned on, and when the chickens left their roost in the mornings the lights were switched off again.[9]


A main attraction to the youth of the area
The Skatepark in the Brightwater Domain

Brightwater's main recreational area is the Brightwater Domain. The Domain includes the town hall, a skatepark, a playground, tennis courts and several playing fields.

Brightwater has a small number of sports teams (mainly rugby teams), the most famous of which being the Wanderers, the Brightwater rugby team.


  1. ^ "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. ^ Reed, A. W. (2002). The Reed Dictionary of New Zealand Place Names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0761-4.
  3. ^ McGibbon, Ian (1990). "Saunders, Alfred". Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  4. ^ Discover New Zealand - A Wises Guide (9th ed.). Wises Publications. 1994. p. 285.
  5. ^ "Rutherford, Earnest (1871-1937)". Bateman New Zealand Encyclopedia, 6th Edition.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ 2013 Census QuickStats about a place : Brightwater
  7. ^ "Ero report, Brightwater School 18/01/2010". Education Review Office. Archived from the original on 2015-01-28.
  8. ^ "Brightwater School". Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Kaimira Wines: About Us". 28 September 2011. Archived from the original on 2016-12-30. Retrieved 29 December 2016.