​Generations of Nelsonians have lived within dreaming distance of the Mount Arthur range, on the western border of the Nelson district. But few folks know the stories that were played out on the high tussock plateau beyond this peripheral mountainous divide, or in the adjacent Cobb Valley.

Mythically spoken of by Maori, searched for by surveyors, discovered by immigrants, mined by misfits, farmed by forefathers, painted by pioneers, advertised for tourists, loved by trampers, sung of by bishops, made accessible by forestry rangers, celebrated by politicians, and protected by conservationists… this is the story of the ‘land uplifted high’ we have affectionately dubbed 'the Tableland.'

Now protected as part of Kahurangi National Park, this wilderness is sandwiched between the Karamea and Takaka watersheds, and marks the divide between Golden Bay and the rugged West Coast. Kahurangi is a geological dreamscape, riddled with human history, and shelters more than half of New Zealand’s native plant species and 18 species of native bird.

Chapters in this book reflect the diverse land usage that has made this iconic piece of real estate so fascinating. From a goldfield, to grazing lands, to hunting grounds, to a source of hydro power and asbestos, to a Forest Park for trampers, to a National Park which shelters a wide range of flora and fauna.

This social history also brings to life the colourful characters whose names became synonymous with this region, from James McKay to John Salisbury; from Billy Lyons to Bishop Suter; from F.G. Gibbs to Henry Chaffey; from Max Polglaze to Jim Bolger. These men came here to change the wilderness, but the wilderness changed them.



Ray Salisbury is the great-great-grandson of the first Motueka Valley pioneer, John Park Salisbury, whose brother Thomas discovered the Tableland in 1863. After the gold rush, John’s flock of sheep grazed the tussock tops of the Tableland and the river flats of the Cobb Valley from 1875 onward.

The author was born on a chicken farm in Upper Hutt, then raised in Auckland where he became a qualified graphic designer. After 12 years of teaching design to high school students, he is now a professional photographer & tutor based in Nelson.

Ray has also been a keen tramper for more than 40 years. His images and articles on the New Zealand backcountry have graced the pages of Wilderness magazine for decades, and won a few awards in the annual FMC photo competition. He is married, and is a member of the Nelson Tramping Club.