New Zealand Company surveyor.
A new biography of Tuckett, Frederick appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Frederick Tuckett was born in 1807 of Quaker parents at Frenchay, near Bristol, where he was educated before being apprenticed to a tanner. From 1829 to 1831 he travelled in the United States and, on returning to England, studied civil engineering. He worked under Brunel, supervising the construction of the Great Western Railway, and while thus employed was appointed on 22 April 1841 principal surveyor and civil engineer to the New Zealand Company's Nelson settlement. On his arrival, Tuckett disagreed with Captain Arthur Wakefield over the siting of the town, but eventually he surveyed the allotments. In November 1842 he sent S. J. Cotterell to explore the Wairau, visiting the district himself in March 1843. On the basis of Tuckett's favourable report, Wakefield decided to proceed with the Wairau Plains survey, thus precipitating the fatal Wairau Affray on 17 June 1843. Tuckett, who strongly disagreed with the Company's action, was one of the party, but escaped in the brig Victoria.Colonel William Wakefield, the Company's principal agent in New Zealand, appointed Tuckett Acting Resident at Nelson during the stormy months following Arthur Wakefield's death.
In 1844, Colonel Wakefield instructed Tuckett to find a suitable South Island site for the Company's projected Scottish Free Church colony of New Edinburgh. Although the Company favoured Port Cooper (Lyttelton), Tuckett was not impressed, and after a cursory examination, decided to look further south, landing at Moeraki (Otago) on 18 April 1844. He travelled overland to Waikouaiti, and thence through almost impenetrable forests to Otakou (Otago) Harbour. He sent his brig Deborah to the Molyneux (Clutha), while he and David Monro followed Dr Shortland's overland route. They skirted the wide South Otago plain and noted a large coal deposit near Kaitangata. On the completion of his inspection of the South Otago district, he sailed for Foveaux Strait, calling at Tautuku Bay and Waikawa, and satisfying himself that there were insufficient lands in these areas. On 1 June 1844 he returned to the Clutha and proceeded overland via Lake Kaitangata, the Tokomairiro plains, and Lake Waihola, to the Taieri and thence along the coast to Otago harbour. On 20 June 1844, having decided that this site was ideal, he purchased the 400,000-acre Otago Block from Tuhawaiki and other southern Maori chiefs. Before this could be surveyed, Tuckett learned of the New Zealand Company's financial difficulties and took the opportunity to quit its service. Tuckett returned to England in 1847, where he took a keen interest in the Aborigines Protection Society, in immigration, and in the temperance movement. He died in April 1876.
A man of firm principles and stalwart in every sense, including a preference for his own opinions, Tuckett was always difficult to work with. This notwithstanding, he was an extremely competent engineer and surveyor, and richly deserves an honoured place among the “fathers” of the Nelson, Marlborough, and Otago settlements. Sir David Monro, who knew Tuckett well, warmly praised his efforts at advancing the colonisation of New Zealand.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
- Marlborough – A Provincial History, McIntosh, A. D. (1940).