Michael and Nancy’s youngest son, also called Michael and known as Michael Jr., joined parties of surveyors mapping The Wairau in the 1840s. They found much good grazing land there. On his return to Nelson the family story goes he persuaded his father to take up a sheep and cattle run in The Wairau.
Michael Sr. probably hoped that his brother John and his family would join them. However John and his family decided to leave for Australia in 1844, possibly frightened by the killing of twenty-two men from Nelson in the ‘Wairau Incident’ at Tua Marina the year before.
It was not until 1847 that land in The Wairau became available for survey and purchase by the settlers from the Nelson area. Even before surveying was finished impatient settlers were coming from Nelson via Tophouse, driving their flocks. Families including the Mahers ’squatted’ on the land while waiting for Government confirmation of their right to it. This came in the form of a ‘Depasturing License’ issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands in 1854.
Then in the next year the Mahers were able to buy the land from the Government and confidently begin their farming operation.
By 1855 Michael and Nancy were 62 years old, almost ‘elderly’ by the standards of the day. However their son Michael Jr. was under 40 years of age and could supply much of the energy needed to build homes and tame the land.
The Mahers’ land, known as Run No. 12, was on the north bank of the Wairau River bordering on the Langleydale run and with its western boundary opposite where the Waihopai River flows into the Wairau. The area later became known as Kaituna.
When the Mahers arrived in about 1848 to begin a new life on their land there were only 194 Europeans living in the whole of the Wairau and Renwicktown was not yet established.
They were true pioneers.