Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
By J. LEN JONES
We may marvel at the size of the giant bottle at the eastern end of our town but do we realise or consider the historic background of our famous beverage or do we just recognise it as a very pleasant soft drink. Paeroa's natural mineral water has been bubbling from the earth for much 1onger than any old resident can remember though some of them recollect that as children they used to make a delightful picnic drink by mixing it with the juice of a lemon. The water itself being heavily charged with Natural CO2 Gas when used as above made a very pleasant Fizzy drink.
As far as I am able to gather, the first white settler to own the property on which the Mineral Spring is situated was Mr. W. Forrest (Senr.) who operated a Saw-Mill near the junction of the Waihou and the Ohinemuri River. The site is still approached via Junction Road which in that vicinity now runs along the Stopbank but owing to a canal being cut to eliminate some difficult bends in the river the present "junction" is nearer to the Puke Bridge. In those early days logs were floated down the rivers to the "Junction" and then hauled to the Mill up Hape Creek which flowed through Mr. Forrest's property. Later a Mr. Hudson owned it and I understand that he was the first man to recognise that the mineral water had commercial value although he did little towards marketing it. However Mr. R.R. Menzies Cordial Manufacturer of Thames who had a branch in Paeroa was the man who developed the project after he bought the property about 1907.
An extract from the 1900 Cyclopaedia of New Zealand reads as follows:-
"Menzies and Company - Cordial Manufacturers, Francis Street, Paeroa; Head Office Thames. Branches at: Te Aroha, Waihi and Hamilton. The Paeroa branch of this firm's business was established in 1895 and is conducted in a wooden building opposite the Railway Station. The plant consists of a five horse power marine engine, a boiler and a full supply of aerated water and bottling machinery. The firm supplies the districts of Karangahake, Hikutaia, etc. Mr. E.C. Morgan is the manager at Paeroa". (Morgan Bros. had previously owned a similar business in Paeroa.)
Mr. Claude Menzies, a nephew of Mr. R.R. Menzies was an early Manager following Mr. Morgan at the old Factory which operated in Francis Street in a building subsequently used as a coal shed by Mr. C.N. Dent but recently demolished.
It should be noted that the Paeroa Mineral Spring Water is not to be confused with Soda Water which is simply carbonated water containing a high percentage of CO2 gas, whereas Paeroa Water contains many beneficial medicinal minerals. A recent analysis confirms that the Spring has lost none of its original mineral qualities. I recall instances of a local Doctor recommending some of his patients to take it.
About 1909 Menzies & Company became Grey & Menzies Limited, when a bore was sunk and lined with earthen-ware pipes, a hand pump being installed. Mr. Jack Gordon, a local carrier was responsible for filling wooden casks to be shipped via the Northern Steamship Co.'s boats, to the Auckland Factory where from 1910 it was treated and bottled as plain table water and also as Lemon and Paeroa Natural Mineral Water. It was distributed to various branches.
In the early years the Spring just bubbled away in Hape Creek but about 1916 this became the "Main Drain" as it is now known. The building of the Stopbank about 1919-24 and the consequent alteration to the drainage system upset this artesian effect and it was found necessary to control the tremendous flow of water by mechanical means.
As the demand for cordials grew it was deemed necessary to build a new factory in Station Road, Paeroa about 1926-27. At first it was run as a depot by Miss V. Menzies and the late Mr. Maurice Beattie who was the first delivery driver. About 1928-29 Mr. Harold Menzies was transferred from Te Aroha as Manager and began production of general every day lines of Aerated Waters - but not "Lemon and Paeroa" which was still distributed from the Auckland factory until about 1933-34. I began as a Driver in the 30's and was the local Manager from 1936-1965.
But Mr. Allan G. Menzies was Gerera1 Manager approximately 20 years ago when the old bore which was giving trouble was opened up to reconstruct the well. During this operation the greatest difficulty which had to be overcome was the tremendous flow of CO.2 natural gas which due to its choking effect prevented men working without a large piped supply of fresh air. The further the well was excavated and the top load reduced the faster the flow of water became. During this period the water was again carefully analysed and the salts were dispensed as A.G.M. Salts - (Allan G .Menzies), for the production of equivalent mineral water.
A centrifugal pump was lowered down the well, which was approximately 10 ft. in diameter and 16 to 18 feet deep. Although the pump was capable of lifting 1000 gallons per hour it could not cope, and a larger one had to be procured. The new well was lined with concrete liners of 4 ft. diameter set on a solid foundation and then back filled and packed to the surrounding country. An endeavour was made to determine the depth from which the water came but the several hundred feet of ½" pipe joined length by length failed to find a bottom.
Due to this reconstruction it was found necessary to dismantle the old original shed covering the well and on completion of the work a new shed was built and a hand pump installed with an invitation to the public to help themselves. Vandals were responsible for the continued mis-use of the pump and through their selfish and wanton destruction of the facilities many local and visiting people were denied their supply of free Paeroa Mineral Water.
The Business continued to operate under the name of Grey& Menzies Ltd. after it was sold to N.Z. Breweries Ltd., with Mr. Allan G. Menzies still as General Manager. Later N.Z. Breweries disposed of a portion of their shares to Schweppes Ltd., the Company then being known as Contract Bottlers. In 1963 C.L. Innes entered the picture and the amalgamation became known as "Innes Tartan Ltd".
NOTE: (In May of this year the firm "Innes Tartan Ltd" opened its new up-to-date factory on the old site - (corner of Station Rd. & Albert St.). To obviate cartage of mineral water a pipe line was laid from the spring to the factory, and from there a subsidiary line conveys water to a Kiosk erected by Innis Tartan Ltd. in the Railway Reserve where an old-fashioned hand pump makes "Paeroa water" available to the public.