Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945

Hauraki Plains Forges Ahead


Remarkable progress in dairying has been made on the Hauraki Plains, and from small beginnings an area to be reckoned with from the point of view of both the quality and quantity of its products has been developed. Yet much more remains to be done before the maximum production is reached. Practically a complete history of dairying development on the Hauraki Plains is contained in the record of progress and achievement by the Thames Valley Co-operative Dairy Co., Ltd., and later the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Co., Ltd., since the former company commenced operations in 1901.

The advance of the Plains to a prominent position as a dairy farming district is closely interwoven with these two co-operative ventures, and this portion of the territory now covered by the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company has played no small part in placing that company in the proud position it holds in the dairying world to-day. The adoption of progressive methods and more intensive dairying practice, which has resulted in dairy produce becoming New Zealand's most important export, is strikingly exemplified by developments in the Hauraki Plains area, and it is indeed interesting to trace this progress in the history of the two co-operative companies referred to.

Valley Company Formed

In 1901 the Thames Valley company was formed with 67 suppliers, and the original factory, in Thames Road, Paeroa, turned out 94 tons of butter during the first season. The gross value of this output was £7275, but from this somewhat small beginning was to grow in under 20 years, a concern which, at the time of amalgamation, had a turnover valued at three-quarters of a million pounds. The company started with a capital of £30,000, made up of 15,000 shares of £2 each. The signatories to the Articles of the Association of the company were Messrs. G. Bishop, Frederick Cock, J. Hubbard and A. J. Thorp, all of Paeroa, Wm. Paul, of Komata, J. Cryer and R. C. McRoberts, of Omahu. The Board of Directors first to operate were Messrs. A. J. Thorp (chairman), G. Bishop, Jos. Clark, F. Cock, J. Cryer, J. Hubbard, A. K. Maxwell, W. Moore, R. C. McRoberts and A. Vowles. The primary objects of the company were briefly stated to be as follows: — "The manufacture and sale of butter, cheese, cream, butterfat, milk, ice, ham, bacon, pork and all other products which can be derived from or made out of cows and pigs."

The first chairman of directors was Mr. A. J. Thorp who was succeeded by Mr. A. C. Hubbard. The latter, after holding the position from 1906 to 1915, enlisted for active service overseas, where he was killed in action in October, 1917. The third and last chairman of directors was Mr. Geo. Buchanan, who held the position from 1915 to 1920. The office of the company in 1902 consisted of one wooden room, but by 1920, when the amalgamation was effected, the company owned an up-to-date concrete suite of offices costing £3000, and the office staff had increased from one to fourteen. The suppliers had increased from 67 to 1200. The company originally operated on the creamery system, and evidence of the growth as an infant is given in the annual report and balance sheet for 1905-06, where it is stated that new creameries were found necessary. These were erected at Netherton and Hikutaia that season. At that time home separation of cream had not come into operation, and the suppliers conveyed their milk to the numerous creameries, where the cream was separated.

High Quality of Produce

The high quality of dairy produce manufactured on the Plains was recognised even in those early days, for it is found that in 1907 the company's factory received the highest grading points (93.24) in the Auckland Province for the season, thereby winning the Weddell Cup. This initial success was to be repeated on many occasions in later years by the Ngatea factory. The year 1909 saw the company making such progress as to necessitate increased factory accommodation, and the central butter factory at Paeroa was rebuilt in brick. During the 1910-11 season the company's annual output of butter passed the 500 tons mark and another creamery at Komata was built to handle the increased supply. The advent of home separation was a tremendous boon to the district, and the dairy output increased at an extremely rapid rate, the 1911-12 season finishing with an output of 750 tons of butter, a 25 per cent improvement over the previous year. The year 1912 saw herd testing make its first appearance, about 2000 cows being tested in that season. The heavy supply from the Plains area necessitated the erection of a butter factory nearer to the producing area, and this was built at Kopu in 1913.

Cheese Production Started

On the rich soil of the Hauraki Plains, with the consequent heavy supplies in comparatively small areas, it was inevitable that the suitability of the district for cheese production should be recognised, and the Thames Valley Company erected its first cheese factories in 1916, the year's output being 316 tons. More cheese factories were built in the following year, at Netherton, Wharepoa, Matatoki, Huirau Road and Shelly Beach. In that season, 1916-17, the company's output was 1234 tons of butter and 1025 tons of cheese compared with 239 tons of butter and no cheese in 1906. This comparison effectively demonstrated the rapid progress of the district. Another cheese factory at Hikutaia was started in 1918, and the co-operative movement was further strengthened by amalgamation with the Te Aroha District Co-operative Dairy Company, which company had a butter factory at Waihou and a cheese factory at Eastport Road.

The Ngatea factory, later so conspicuous by its success in the Weddell Cup competition, was erected in 1919.

Manufacture of Dried Milk

Returning to the history of the company, at this time close attention was being given to the manufacture of dried milk, and after lengthy investigations it was decided to erect the large milk powder factory now operating at Waitoa.

The Companies Amalgamate

In 1920 the amalgamation with the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company took place, and the decision reached on this important matter has had far-reaching and most beneficial results for those engaged in the industry on the Plains. The combination of financial resources of both large companies had enabled shareholders to enlarge the area of their co-operative efforts and the Glen Afton Collieries, Frankton Box Factory, and the Challenge Fertiliser works are outstanding examples of what has been possible by reason of this financial strength. Their efforts in these ventures have been repaid to the shareholders many times over by way of cheaper coal, butter boxes, cheese crates and fertiliser. The amalgamation also made possible greater economy in manufacturing costs and has been of immense assistance in the fight for more efficient marketing of New Zealand dairy produce generally. Since 1920 dairying on the Hauraki Plains has continued to progress rapidly, and to-day presents a picture of intensive dairy activity not excelled in any part of New Zealand.

Market Requirements — Effect of War

In common with many other dairy companies throughout New Zealand, the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Co., Ltd., during the war recently concluded, was faced with considerable difficulties owing to the changing needs of the United Kingdom market. It will be remembered that in the early stages of the war the British authorities intimated that cheese was No. 1 priority, and requested the New Zealand Government to arrange for an increase in cheese and a decrease in butter manufacture. As far as the company was concerned, it involved a complete re-organisation of its cheese operations — alteration to cartage routes, transfers of supply, increased staffing, and so on. Additional cheese units had to be provided, and all cheese factories were placed on a round-the-clock programme.

At a later stage of the war Britain found herself short of fats, and butter then become No. 1 priority, and the whole process had to be reversed. It is a striking tribute to the farmers concerned that, although the changes which took place caused them much inconvenience, they responded whole-heartedly to the calls made upon them, feeling that they were rendering a worthwhile contribution to the war effort.

District Interests Watched

The New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company has kept in close touch with the needs of the district, and has catered for the increased production by providing greater factory accommodation. The rebuilding of the Paeroa factory, bringing the plant right up-to-date with modern dairy factory practice, the instalment of a larger and most modern plant at Ngatea, and subsequently the establishment of a cheese factory also at this centre, together with a cheese factory at Waitakaruru, are instances of the company's care in providing an adequate and thoroughly efficient organisation to meet the needs of the industry. The company's technical staff is regularly in direct touch with actual running conditions in all the factories, and suppliers are therefore assured that their interests in the matter of factory accommodation and manufacturing efficiency are constantly safeguarded. Progress on the Plains is reflected in the thriving towns and smaller communities throughout the district, and gives a clear indication of the manner in which the welfare of the business people in New Zealand is bound up in the success of the man on the land.

There can be no doubt that the output of dairy produce from the Plains will continue to increase, as a result of more intensive cultivation and scientific farming methods, and this increased production, allied to sound management on the manufacturing and marketing sides of their business, enables the Hauraki Plains dairy farmers, as well as the adjacent townspeople, to regard the future of their district with confidence. The New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company can be relied on to keep pace with the district's requirements and to render to suppliers as high a standard of service as has been available in the past.

Some Interesting Figures

The following figures, showing details of the growth of the Thames Valley Co-operative Dairy Company, Limited, will no doubt be of interest to readers: —



Output in tons.


Paid-up property







No. of Shareholders

Capital £

Plant £

Turnover £















































It should be noted that these figures cover the whole of the Thames Valley Company's territory from Morrinsville and Waharoa to the East Coast, this including all the Waitoa and Te Aroha factories. By way of comparison, it may be stated that in the 1944-45 season the output of factories operated by the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company on the Hauraki Plains alone reached a total of 5277 tons of butter and 5256 tons of cheese.