Ernest_Rutherford.Image via Wikipedia

Suburb Description

Brightwater, home to about 2,000 people, is located about 20 minutes ( 19km ) from Nelson and under 10 minutes drive ( 8km ) south of Richmond on State Highway 6, the main arterial road to the West Coast.

Each February it plays host to the annual Brightwater Wine and Food Festival, an event that showcases the areas wine, food, craft, etc and that attracts thousands of visitors.

Brightwater is quite famous as it was the birthplace of Ernest Rutherford, he of “splitting the atom’ fame, who went on to win a Nobel Prize for his work. It’s also the centre for many rural residents scattered around the fertile southern Waimea Plains. Currently most houses are on the flat, although with the release of a recent new sub-division on the south eastern side of Brightwater, elevated sites are now available, and new residents will be be able to enjoy some fabulous views over the Plains, and in some cases, seaviews.

Brightwater is still an area where industrious folk gather; it is home to a dairy factory and a flourishing international engineering business, Brightwater Engineering who just recently -JAN2009- won the contract to design and construct the $100 million coal handling and processing plant at Solid Energy’s Stockton, near Westport, mine.

Farming and forestry characterise the area. As part of the Waimea Plains it is a mixture of pastoral and horticultural units and adjacent river valleys. The farming community consists of long established families and new-comers attracted to the lifestyle provided by a hobby-farm or small horticulture unit. The Forest Industry is dominated by Carter Holt Harvey who operate a saw milling complex at Eves Valley, 7kms from Brightwater and own extensive exotic planting controlled by its forestry division. The community combines the rural sector with a significant working class population. Many children live in the township, with the remaining children carried by bus to the school from surrounding areas.

Brightwaters’ major attraction is the fact its only minutes away from the bigger centre of Richmond, but offers a relaxed rural feel making it a great place to visit and live.


Locally there is a Four Square store, a local dairy, hairdresser, fish & chip shop, 2 x garage’s, and the local hotel. Brightwater is also home to McGlashens Pottery. With the nature of the surrounding area being rural, there is also several other service & industy support businesses, Iike mechancial services, tyre providers, etc.

The Richmond Mall and main Richmond shops about 8-9 minute drive north from Brightwater. In the other direction, 5-6 kms further south is Wakefield and there’s a selection of community shopping there too, with a local tavern and popular cafe.

Public Transport

There is no regular commercial scheduled public transport service to from Brightwater. The trains stopped travelling through here in the mid 1950’s when they abandoned the Nelson to Glenhope line.

Students who require transit to the larger schools in Richmond or further do have access to public transport from Brightwater if they meet qualifying conditions.

NZ’s Intercity Buses do operate a service through Brightwater but as the buses appear to go in the opposite direction that a city worker would desire, its quite apparent that this service mainly caters to travellers, not residents. Details below….

Services Departing From Brightwater at the Four Square Store, 58 Ellis Street.

This timetable is valid as at 07/02/2009






7:50 am InterCity Coachlines 8825 Nelson – Fox Glacier M T W T F S S Wakefield, Belgrove, Kohatu, Korere, Kawatiri, Owen River, Murchison, Inangahua Junction, Westport, Charleston, Tiromoana, Fox River, Punakaiki, Punakaiki Rocks Hotel & Villas, Barrytown, Runanga, Greymouth, Paroa, Kumara Junction, Awatuna, Hokitika, Ross, Bushmans Centre, Harihari, Whataroa, Okarito Turn Off, Franz Josef, Fox Glacier
7:00 pm InterCity Coachlines 8826 Fox Glacier – Nelson M T W T F S S Hope, Richmond, Stoke, Tahunanui, Nelson, Nelson Boys College, Nelson Girls College


Brightwater School was established in 1888, and is the main educational facility with-in the suburb.

Eating out

The local Brightwater Motor Inn has the Crossroads Restuarant, and as previously mentioned there is the local Fish & Chip Shop.

And for something a little different there’s Vespers Cafe & Winebar in the heart of the township, and set in a delightfully restored Old Church & garden.

Down the road 3-4 minutes heading north towards Richmond on the Main Rd in Hope is the Bedford Bar & Cafe.  And in the opposite direction heading south to Wakefield, there you’ll find Chateau Rhubarbe in Edward St. If you’d like to travel just a bit further its just 10 minutes to Richmond & its outskirts by car, where you’ll discover another dozen or so cafes, restuarants & taverns, all mainly licensed.