The beginning for both Nelson and Wairau hospitals starts with the settlement of the top of New Zealand’s South Island.

Immigrants to Nelson and Marlborough faced many health difficulties, including impure water supplies and hostile terrain.  Settlement was even more difficult for settlers who moved out into the remote Marlborough Sounds. 

The first hospitals

The first hospital in Nelson was established in 1852 in Nelson city.

The first hospital in the Marlborough region was a cottage-style hospital built in Picton in 1865.

Both hospitals gradually grew to meet their population's needs, within financial constraint set by provincial, then central, government.

Where we are today

For many years Nelson and Wairau hospitals and their services were managed separately. Amalgamation first occurred in 1988 with the establishment of the Nelson Marlborough Area Health Board. 
The Nelson Marlborough Area Health Board was renamed the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board  in 2001 and in 2016 the 'trading name' Nelson Marlborough Health was adopted.

In 2016 Nelson Marlborough Health employs almost 2500 people and serves approximately 145,000 people across the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions at the top of the South Island – one of the fastest-growing regions in New Zealand. 

Over the years both hospitals have evolved to become some of New Zealand’s leading healthcare providers providing a range of facilities and services required by the diverse communities they serve. 

History of Wairau Hospital

Marlborough’s first provincial hospital was built in Picton – the provincial capital in 1865. It cost £582 and two shillings to build. 
In 1878 the Blenheim Borough Council established the first hospital on Maxwell Road in Blenheim, in a rented five-room cottage accommodating four patients. It was named Wairau Hospital after the name of the electorate, which later became Marlborough.

Wairau Hospital development

The first hospital established on the current hospital grounds was built in 1887 and accommodated 25 patients. It was built on the Amersfoot Estate and cost £1,650 to build.

In 1915 three wards of a new hospital on the current site were constructed at a cost of £17,225. These buildings, although now demolished, became the nucleus for the current hospital.

A 90-bed block built during World War II was completed in 1943 and is still in use today.

The clinical services block was built in 1968-69 for $645,000. The Arthur Wicks building was officially opened in 1976 and cost around $1.9 million. A new maternity and paediatric wing, known as wards 1 and 2, was built in 1987. Two new theatres, an ambulatory care unit and a sterile supply unit were completed in 1994 at a cost of $4 million.
In 2006 the Ministry of Health allocated $36.6 million for the redevelopment of the Wairau Hospital site which was completed in 2011.

In 2016 internal and external seismic strengthening work and an office fit-out on the upper floor of the Arthur Wicks building commenced. This building accommodates the Emergency Department (ED) and the High Dependency Unit on the ground floor.