Other concentrations of population are located in the valleys of the Takaka and the Aorere Rivers, which flow into Golden Bay. These are principally dairying areas and their history follows a well-established pattern of development. The first pioneers arrived in the Takaka area in 1845, three years after the initial settlement of Nelson. The stimulus to the development of the Aorere Valley arose from the discovery of gold in 1857, and Collingwood experienced a brief period of growth and prominence as the principal outlet of the region. The interest in the potentialities of the area's mineral resources has persisted throughout the decades. Deposits of alluvial and lode gold were worked intermittently in the West Haven (Whanganui Inlet) area throughout the latter part of the last century; and small coalfields were exploited at Puponga and North Cape. Perhaps the greatest hopes were placed upon the development of the Onekaka iron ores, but the most substantial development has been achieved with the expansion of the cement works at Tarakohe to a capacity of 300,000 tons, only half of which is used at present. The cement is distributed by a fast motor vessel to installations at Wellington, Wanganui, and New Plymouth. The exploitation of the timber resources was a useful source of income during the early period of settlement, but at present the economy rests substantially upon sheep farming and particularly dairying, as is borne out by the ratio of cows in milk per hundred sheep shorn for Golden Bay county, 12·42. The trend displayed by the population figures for Golden Bay county indicates the restricted basis of economic activity in the valleys to which difficulties of access are a contributing factor. In 1926 the population totalled 3,049. By 1951 it had risen to 3,819 and, at the next census, 1956, rose to 4,057. Following the completion of the Cobb Dam and the expansion of the limeworks the population in 1961 had declined to 3,672. Nevertheless, the number of cows in milk has increased by 8·77 per cent and the Department of Agriculture estimates a further 40-per-cent increase by 1980. Significantly, in the period 1951–52 to 1959–60, the increase in sheep shorn and lambs shorn was below the regional level of increase, which itself was below the national level.
The population of the region as a whole has continued to increase. It numbered 25,564 in 1926, 44,153 in 1956, and 48,538 in 1961. During the last decade (1951–61), however, the rate of increase, 19·98 per cent, has been well below the national rate of increase and the increase has been concentrated in the urban areas which grew by 44·65 per cent, whereas the rural population declined by 7·35 per cent. Furthermore, it is striking how the proportion of the total population contained in the Nelson urban area and in the boroughs of Richmond and Motueka has continued to increase, from 57 per cent in 1926 to 66 per cent in 1961.
Two recent controversies have emphasised the long-term problems of the region. For communications the region is dependent upon its road connections with Picton and Blenheim and the rather difficult route of the Buller Gorge via Murchison to the West Coast. Regular steamer services with Wellington were discontinued in 1953, although coastal and overseas vessels call at Nelson. From that date travel to Wellington was restricted to the airlines or by road to Picton and thence by ferry. The railroad between Nelson and Glenhope, owing to an insufficient volume of traffic, was finally closed in 1955 and the faint hope of its ever being connected by rail to the West Coast was destroyed. The Labour administration of 1957–60 promised the construction of a rail link between Picton and Nelson at a cost of approximately £1 million. Although the route was surveyed, the ensuing controversy and a change of government led to the demise of the scheme. The action of the same Labour Government in selecting Nelson as the site for a large modern cotton-spinning mill again aroused considerable controversy, which resulted in the abandonment of the scheme.