Archer family leave sound legacy

21:06, Mar 27 2014
Peter Archer
Peter Archer

The Archer family of Tennyson Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds has a long and rich family history. In the buildup to the International Year of Family Farming event at Rai Valley on Sunday, Archer family member Nanette Bunting writes about her family's time in the area. 

When Peter Archer purchased land in Tennyson Inlet, a small cottage was included in the sale.

This was originally built for the Duncan family, who had set up machinery and bullock teams for milling in the area.

Peter Archer
Peter Archer junior

Mill workers and their families were appalled by the isolation and named the area World's End.

The land was accessible only by walking over the Opouri Saddle or by boat.

As Peter's wife Sarah and children stepped ashore on the lonely beach in Tuna Bay in 1883, she gazed at the desolation and debris of the abandoned mill site, the wallow holes and upturned soil made by pigs that surrounded her primitive home to be.


Her heart sank, but there was no time for feelings of regret or loneliness.

With dauntless perseverance that epitomised the pioneers of those days they began the slow task of turning the wilderness into a farm - so began the Archers story in this delightful area.

Peter's only son Fred took over the farm in 1918 after returning from World War I. Fred added to the farm by purchasing a neighbouring property, which his father had previously been unable to do, until the stipulated two-thirds of his existing property had been cleared.

Local launch contractors with headquarters in Havelock gradually took over the bulk of all cargo in the Pelorus Sounds.

This, combined with high wool prices, saw Fred gradually shift from dairying to sheep farming.

He had to learn the art of blade shearing and "lambing midwifery" combined with more felling and clearing of the land.

When Fred died suddenly in 1945, his only son Roy, who was overseas, was given compassionate leave from the Air Fleet Arm to return home to the farm.

Roy and his wife Betty had dreams of attracting holidaymakers to this virtually undiscovered magnificent area.

Transport was a major problem in the Sounds, for with no roads there were virtually no vehicles or even agricultural machines.

Over the years Roy purchased a steam traction engine, a bren gun carrier from ex-war assets and a jeep.

Each purchase helped considerably, but with the expense of secondary school boarding fees looming for their four children, production would have to increase considerably if they were to cope.

They subdivided an area of the farm into sections and began to put a road over the Opouri Saddle. The answer was in roading - instead of a track over the saddle.

A family history records: "Again and again that Opouri Hill was climbed as we sought the most suitable route, and although young Peter was there, I liked to imagine old Peter Archer was there too, urging us all to give it a go! Maybe our task wasn't any more formidable that his had been 80 years before, when by hand he hewed his stock over a track over that same hill."

And what of their dreams - certainly fulfilled!

The Tennyson Inlet road has given many bach owners and tourists access to some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand.

Roy's only son Peter junior was destined to carve his niche on the land.

As a result of the road going in and the purchase of a bulldozer, the farm underwent a complete redevelopment over the next two to three years: Every hectare of land was developed and grassed and paddocks fenced with posts split from birch trees on the farm.

In partnership, Roy and Peter bought the property at the head of the Opouri Valley.

There was much work to be done before sowing in grass and turnips, as it had never been stumped or logged.

"Ragwort was rampant in the valley and every new paddock of grass was ravaged by the porina caterpillar which was in plague proportions." Peter recalls.

After Roy died in 1991, Peter's days were full as he juggled work at the Opouri Valley farm, the home farm, the mussel lines and a young family.

During the 1990s Peter had diversified into mussel farming and with the industry looking strong he sold the property in Opouri Valley and built a motorised barge.

This has enabled him to work on his own mussel farms and with his eldest son Scott does contract mussel work with the barge.

The 130 years of the Archers' farming the land is steeped in history and they have managed to diversify during these years. Now Peter's two younger children Sarah and Andrew have started to run a beekeeping operation on the farm, alongside Peter and Scott's farming. It is now the turn of the fourth, fifth and sixth generation to perpetuate the Archer family connections with Tennyson Inlet.

Roy and Betty Archer's four children, Sue, Peter, Beryl and Nanette have compiled a book of the Archer family and the development of Tennyson Inlet.

Dinghy to Daimler and Beyond has been written by two generations.

They all still have a firm foothold in the area and in turn their children and grandchildren are now enjoying the legacy begun by Peter and Sarah Archer.

The Marlborough Express