Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972


Dairy farming in the Paeroa District was on a home basis before 1900. After hand-milking their cows farmers made butter from cream that they skimmed from their surplus milk which had been strained and poured into large flat dishes in their dairies. The following entries in Mr. William Tetley's Diary give evidence of this:

3-12-98. Sent 40 lbs. butter to Karangahake Butcher.

22-1-99. Churned 135 lbs. butter this week. Took to Mr. W. McWatter's store in Paeroa.

7-11-99. Making milking stools. In evening hurt my back lifting water into milk cooler.

It is small wonder that the farmers, (and their wives) felt the great need of a "Butter Factory" and in 1900 the first local one was established by Mr. Wesley Spragg for the N.Z. Dairy Association. It was sited on Thames Road, on the property now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. E. Blake. This Creamery opened with 10 suppliers representing a total of 250 cows, but it soon became inadequate and there was considerable dissatisfaction with tests and returns.

24-5-1901. (Advertisement in the Paeroa Gazette). "A meeting of Dairymen and Milk Suppliers will be held on Tues. 28th May in Wharf St. Hall for the purpose of forming a Co-operative Dairy Association for Paeroa and District. Conveners: F. Cock, J. Hubbard, G. Bishop."

At the meeting Mr. W. Moore (Netherton) was voted to the Chair. The Provisional Committee being W. Moore, J. Hubbard, A. Vowles, F. Cock, G. Bishop, and H. Morrison. It was decided to form a Co-operative Company with Capital £5,000 and 2,500 shares at £2 each, suppliers to take up 1 share for every 2 cows, and to establish a joint Factory and Creamery in Paeroa with other Creameries at convenient places.

June 19th 1901 - Mr. Edwin Townshend, Chief Grader for the Dairy Division Auckland accompanied by Directors, attended a large meeting of farmers in Paeroa. He advised settlers to join the Co-operative Company and to establish the Factory on a more suitable site, the matter to be discussed with Mr. Spragg. (Mr. Elliott donated an acre of land at Omahu as a site for a creamery).

July 9th 1901 - Mr. W. Moore presided at a meeting of the Provisional Directors of the Thames Valley Dairy Company, others present being Messrs Cock, A.J. Thorp, Bishop, Hubbard, McRoberts, Clark and Maxwell. Mr. Thorp was elected the first Chairman of Directors, a position he held from 1901 - 1906. Mr. J. Hubbard was appointed Secretary - Organiser (at a Salary of £52 per annum!) and Mr. William Tetley was instructed to draw up plans for the factory.

Mr. Tetley's Diary gives us the following details:-

August 1st 1901 - "Attended a meeting of the Directors of the Thames Valley Dairying Association, when it was determined to select a new site for the Butter Factory. Entirely new plans had to be prepared. The land owned by Mr. Phillips on the river bank (Fraser Street) was bought.

August 3rd – 12th: "Working on new plans and specifications of Butter Factory.

August 13th: "Went to a meeting of Directors of the Dairy Co., and submitted plans to them which they approved, excepting fittings in office and test table which were to be left out.

August 14th: "Took plans to Mrs. Capill's in Paeroa where they were to be seen.

August 17th: "Pegged out the Butter Factory on the ground.

August 20th – 26th: "Taking off and computing quantities from plans.

August 27th: "Met Committee of the Thames Valley Dairy Co. and opened tenders for the Butter Factory.

My own estimate of the cost £625.


Fitzpatrick & Boyd Paeroa £950.

Arnsey £799.

Dudley & Frith Te Aroha £729.

F. Douglas Paeroa £729.

M. W. Hayes Waihi £673.

Samuel Craig Paeroa £625.=


Sept. 2nd: "Went to Paeroa to see what was being done at the Butter Factory. Found that the Contractor had set out all the walls and was digging out the foundations, but he had unfortunately set them out with a tape which was too short and we had therefore to set them off again with a rod.

Sept. 5th: "Went to Paeroa to Butter Factory. Found that the plan had blown away and cannot be found. Supposed to have sunk in the river. Started to draw a new plan in the afternoon and went on till late.

Sept. 5th: "Started work at 6 a.m. on new Factory plans and took the tracing in just before they finished work.

(From this date until 1st October the work seems to have progressed satisfactorily with a number of inspections. The diary breaks off after 1st October and the only other reference to the Factory is one, dated November 11th which reads as follows:-

Nov. 11th 1901: "Considered Mr. Craig to have finished his contract for the erection of the Butter Factory, and gave him an order for £120".

In its first season the new wooden building erected in 1901 had 67 suppliers and made 94 tons of butter. Mr. Dixon was the first Manager. The whole milk was carted to the factory by farmers and separated there, the skim milk being carted back to the farms. Milking was all done by hand till 1906 when the first Milking Machine in the district was purchased by Hubbard Bros.

Captain Arthur Hubbard was Chairman (1906 - 1915). He was killed in action in World War I and Mr. George Buchanan was Chairman from 1915 to 1920 when the Company was amalgamated with Waikato Valley Dairy Company and New Zealand Dairy Association to become the present N.Z. Co-operative Dairy Co. Ltd. Mr. Buchanan represented the Paeroa Ward until his retirement in 1935 when Mr. William Marshall became Chairman of the Company and also later Chairman of the first Dairy Marketing Commission in 1947. Mr. C. Townshend represented the Ward from 1947 to 1968 and Mr. David Bay is now the local Director in a Ward with altered boundaries.

Production showed steady growth over the early years, e.g. 1901, 64 tons 1906, 238 tons; 1911, 586 tons; 1914, 1,130 tons. The annual report for 1905-6 stated that new Creameries were necessary and these were erected at Netherton and Hikutaia. In 1907 the Coy's factory received the highest grading points in the Auckland Province (93.24.) thereby winning the Weddell Cup. Progress in the year 1909 necessitated increased accommodation and the central Paeroa Factory was re-built in brick. A little later home separation made its impact and by 1920 the output reached 1,678 tons. The Thames Valley Co. had by this time expanded into Cheese Factories on the Hauraki Plains and a large Milk Powder unit at Waitoa.

The first factory built on the present site in Fraser Street was a wooden one and until its recent demolition to make room for the new modern offices and store rooms served as the Manager's office, factory and suppliers storeroom and Engineer's workshop. The main back part of the present factory was built in brick and concrete and the front wing with stage, test room and vat storage was added in similar materials in 1926. This portion was built by Mr. William Marshall who later became Mayor of Paeroa.

The main office of the Thames Valley Dairy Co. was a concrete building used for several years as a honey depot adjacent to the present day Te Aroha - Thames Valley Dairy Company's Milk Powder factory and milk powder store. Part of this building has been demolished to make way for the new rail link to the store.

In 1948 the present Engineer's workshop and Depot was erected as a Buttermilk Roller-Drying Powder plant and when Kerepehi spray-Drying plant was built in 1956, ceased operations as a drying unit. The engineers who service all New Zealand Dairy Co. factories in this area were in part of the original wooden building until the erection of the new office four years ago.

The Paeroa factory has made a great contribution to the welfare of the town and district in that it has for years given employment to a staff of 18 men and one lady, and also provides most of them with homes at a moderate rental.

The output for the current season is around 6,000 tons of creamery butter, the greater part of which comes from bulk cream separated at Kerepehi milk powder unit; also 520 tons of whey butter sent in from adjacent cheese factories. Only around one hundred suppliers now separate their own milk on the farms and a good proportion of these are on the Coromandel Peninsula. Buttermilk from the Paeroa factory is back-loaded to Kerepehi (for drying) by the tankers who bring the cream from there. Recently Paeroa Factory has been patting butter for a special order from South Africa.

The Managers appointed over the years to my knowledge have been:

Mr. W. C. Dixon - later Factories Superintendent.

Mr. A. J. Garry - transferred to Taupiri.

Mr. L. Morris - transferred to Tuakau.

Mr. L. Landman - transferred to Waitoa; retired in Hamilton.

Mr. L. Turner - Deceased.

Mr. Chris. Hall - now Butter Supervisor - N.Z. Co-op. Dairy Co. Ltd.

Mr. Hans Veldtman - Dairy Division, Auckland.

Mr. Roy Higgs - transferred to Taupiri.

Mr. C. Macfarquhar - Present Manager - 1972.

These men have over the years competed with varying degrees of success in the grading competitions of Waikato and Overseas shows. Mr. Roy Higgs now at Taupiri, had outstanding success in 1971 at Waikato and Mr. Macfarquhar won the Weddel [spelt Weddell earlier – E] Cup and Dairy Board Cup in 1959 while Manager at Paerata factory.

The present churn capacity is 4 - 100 Box stainless steel churns and there are two 100 H.P. automatic coal-fire boilers, a full set of cream storage tanks, and cooling and vacreating equipment to prepare the cream for churning.

Some of the long term employees with the Company were: Peter Mills, Frank Pitts, Jack Mitchell, Albert Morran, Jack Mead, Bert Hardman, Albert Goldsworthy (40 years), Russell Mead, Bill Snedden, Len Grant, Barney King, Carl Nielsen, A. Pivott, and Jack King (Head Engineer). Also (in the Office) Miss Ivy McKenna (who married Mr. Morris) and Miss Grace Milroy (who married A. Morran after 8 years of service). For many years Dave McKee drove the Coy's Lacre Truck, (the 1st commercial vehicle based in Paeroa) conveying butter to the Puke Wharf and the Railway Station. He continued when the vehicle was replaced by a Walker electric truck powered by storage batteries.

Our Contributor: Mr. CHAS. TOWNSHEND J .P., was born in Auckland, the son of Mr. Edwin Townshend. In 1922 the family settled on Pukahu Road, Awaiti and later established the highly successful Belwyn Jersey Stud (now carried on by son Bruce while son Gray has the Crescent Stud at Ngatea). Mr. Townshend retired to his Paeroa home in 1961 but has continued to live a very active life. He was Secretary of the Jersey Breeders Assoc. 1925-48, a member of the Vet. Club, the Dairy Assoc; and the Herd Improvement Assoc. for 21 years and the Waikato Pig Council and the Auck. Farmers Freezing Coy. for 10 years as well as being Chairman of the Hauraki Rural Credit Assoc. for 44 years. He is still a Registered Valuer and he and his family have always been active members of the Presbyterian Church and have taken a vital interest in everything pertaining to the well-being of Paeroa.

ANCHOR BUTTER was made for the first time in New Zealand by Mr. Henry Reynolds on 3-11-1886 in a little factory at Pukekura, Cambridge West. In 1888 it gained the gold medal at the Melbourne Exhibition. It is claimed that the first separator used in the N.I. was set up at this factory. The industry expanded to two factories and eight creameries and after ten years was transferred to Mr. Wesley Spragg. He interested Bycrofts Ltd. in the manufacture of butter and the N.Z. Dairy Association was formed, Mr. Spragg taking charge of the Lower Waikato area which included Hauraki. He retired in 1914.