Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
By Graham Watton
The early Maori who arrived about 1600 and European pioneers, who settled in the Ohinemuri District from 1842, particularly those associated with the development of the goldfields and the township of Paeroa from the early 1870s, quickly recognised the unique mineral waters bubbling from a deep underground spring, for its medicinal and thirst quenching properties.
One early report (c. 1905) states:
"The chance discovery of the spring of mineral water in a cow paddock near the confluence of the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers, known as The Junction, was followed by frequent visits to the hole in the ground from which the palatable water could be obtained for the taking. That was long before anyone thought of commercialising the product.
"The writer and his lady friend struck upon the happy idea of taking a lemon or two in their pockets and adding lemon juice to the mineral water anticipating the future use, that delectable refreshing drink known everywhere as Lemon and Paeroa.
"Paeroa and Lemon was enjoyed by some early residents of Paeroa to quench the thirst and on occasions to relieve a bilious attack."
A report compiled by a noted Government balneologist A S Wohlman, OBE, MD., BS (London) in 1904:
"The Paeroa spring is a large warm effervescing spring of similar nature to the Te Aroha spring, but contains 73 grains of magnesium bicarbonate to the gallon.
"It is good for dyspepsia and pleasant to drink and in older times had the reputation among the goldminers of the district as a Sunday morning drink after a Saturday night "burst". It can be beneficial for constipation".
He saw the Paeroa spring water as a mild alkaline chalybeate water, valuable for medicinal purposes and as a table water but was not sure anyone would go to the expense of bottling it, especially with the large amount of tea which was drunk in the colony.
The Paeroa water analysis was: Temperature, 80 deg. F; fair effervescence of C02; pleasant sweetish taste. Magnesium bicarbonate 73 grains per gallon; sodium bicarbonate, 39.4; calcium bicarbonate, 35.5; ferrous bicarbonate 1.6; total solids 167.8.
Yet another early recollection, about 1906: "A favourite Sunday walk was to the mineral spring near Junction Wharf. The spring filled a grassy well, the overflow going into the nearby creek. The usual thing was to have a drink there and take a bottle home. This property was taken over by a Mr Fewell who started bottling. This was the beginning of Lemon and Paeroa".
The famous spring is on a block of land in Junction Road and close to the first major wharf, which serviced the early goldfields. The land was first owned in April 1887 by James Coote, hotelkeeper and Alexander Hogg, storekeeper, both of Paeroa. In August the same year, the property was subdivided and the spring, with some 13 acres, transferred to John Logan Campbell, later Sir John Logan Campbell, "the father of Auckland".
By 1896 timber merchant James McAndrew purchased the property and established a sawmill on the Hape Creek, close to the spring. Over the next thirteen years the district's residents regularly visited the spring to partake of its waters.
The property passed through several owners until Robert Fewell, in partnership with his brother-in-law, Frank Brinkler, took over the sawmill in 1908 and the next year he purchased the property and commenced marketing the mineral water through his company, the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company, which was incorporated in March 1910.
This firm built up a large clientele over a wide area, including Auckland, as it supplied cases of bottled waters. The firm also consigned barrels of the mineral water to customers in Auckland on the Northern Steamship Company's river steamers, SS Taniwha and SS Waimarie.
In 1915 Mr Fewell sold his Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company's property and proprietary rights to Grey and Menses Limited, a local aerated water manufacturing company. This company had been formed by the amalgamation in 1902 of John Grey and Sons, Auckland, with a branch at Coromandel and Menzies Limited, with headquarters in Thames and factories in Paeroa (Francis Street), Waihi and Te Aroha.
The new owners of the Paeroa spring issued a statement from their Auckland office in August 1915 stating:
"Paeroa Mineral Water and Paeroa and Lemon would be continued to be produced. The Paeroa spring water is a first class natural mineral water for table purposes and closely resembles some of the best table waters imported. We are therefore confidently recommend its use to the public".
Grey and Menzies Limited operated a flourishing company and in 1926 built a new factory in Station Road to produce everyday lines of aerated waters, but not "Paeroa and Lemon" which was distributed from their Auckland factory until 1934, after which the drink was produced in the Paeroa factory. The "raw" water was brought from the spring in barrels, carried by a truck and by a tanker.
Just when the brand name was changed from Paeroa and Lemon to Lemon and Paeroa is not clear. An advertisement in the local newspaper in 1947 displayed both names.
In 1960 New Zealand Breweries took over the business, although it was still operated as Grey and Menzies Limited; later the Auckland firm, Schweppes Limited took over from New Zealand Breweries and formed a company named Contract Bottlers Limited.
In the 1960s the spring underwent major redevelopment work, with the well being lined with concrete liners 1.3m in diameter to a depth of some 13m and a new pump house built. In an attempt to find the depth of the spring, several lengths of 11mm pipe were joined together, measuring around 100m, but did not reach the bottom.
In 1963 C L Innes, a long-standing Hamilton aerated water manufacturer, became involved and the new firm was named Innes Tartan Limited. This move brought expansion of the Paeroa factory, with the fifty-year-old building given an upgrade in 1970 and a pipeline laid from the well to the factory, a distance of over two kilometres.
A smaller pipe was laid from the factory to the Railway Reserve where the famous water, after filtration, was available to the public in a small kiosk, through an old-styled hand-pump. Unfortunately vandals continually smashed the system and it was closed within eighteen months.
Lemon and Paeroa had the distinction of winning the British Bottlers Institute Diploma of Excellence Award in 1969. The product is the only entry from outside the British Isles to win such an award.
The Paeroa factory underwent a major upgrade in 1970, with new bottling equipment installed and hygienic features added. The total floor space, including a warehouse added ten years previously, was around 1115 square metres. By now the mineral water was being artificially manufactured in several factories in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The product was being exported to Australia and used by airlines and cruise ships. Continual checks were made between the spring water and the artificial product to ensure that both were the same.
Schweppes (New Zealand) Limited, another cordial manufacturer, became associated with Innes Tartan Limited to manufacture Lemon and Paeroa at its New Zealand factories.
With the changing economic climate during the late 1970s, and with the trend of the day being amalgamations. Oasis Industries, another Auckland manufacturer, became involved, taking over Innes Tartan and Schweppes. The Paeroa factory was closed by its new owners in July 1980 and the whole production unit moved to Auckland. The ownership of the spring remains with the Auckland firm which, in more recent tines has been absorbed by international and American-based company, Coca-Cola Amatil.
THE L & P BOTTLE
However the memories of those proud days of Paeroa and Lemon, or in later years, Lemon and Paeroa - just when the change in name took place is a little obscure -are kept to the forefront by the large Lemon and Paeroa bottle at the eastern entrance to Paeroa.
This eye-catching structure commenced its life as a replica rocket being the focal point for Paeroa's 1967 Christmas promotion - it was at the time when men were being sent into outer space and to the moon and Paeroa was to "rocket" into Christmas. In 1968 the bottle was painted in the then Lemon and Paeroa colours for the 1968 Christmas promotion.
Innes Tartan Limited, in a joint venture with the former Paeroa Borough Council, moved the bottle to its present site, and from 1969 it has become one of the most well-known and photographed icons in New Zealand.
This 7-metre high, 1.3 metre diameter structure is made from six concrete water troughs with a fibreglass top and is painted in the product's corporate colours. It has become one of the ten top icons of New Zealand, has appeared on a New Zealand postage stamp, and its photograph can be found in tourists' cameras around the world.
Today, after over 100 years, the famous spring has gone the full circle, with one difference. The unique mineral waters still bubble from now a concrete pipe well and overflow into the nearby Hape Creek. But it is locked away from the local residents and those who travel through Paeroa.
Paeroa is proud of its Lemon and Paeroa history.
Paeroa is world-famous for its Lemon and Paeroa bottle.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Further information regarding the history of Lemon and Paeroa is recorded in the following Journals:
Journal 14, October 1970: The History of Lemon and Paeroa by Len Jones [see Journal 14: History of "Lemon and Paeroa" - E]
Journal 35, September 1991: Lemon and Paeroa [see Journal 35: Lemon and Paeroa - E]
Journal 36, September 1992: Paeroa Mineral Spring by Vic Boggis [see Journal 36: Paeroa Mineral Spring - E]
THE WORLD FAMOUS IN NEW ZEALAND L&P CAFE & BAR
Paeroa's World Famous in New Zealand Cafe & Bar, situated at the intersection of Seymour Street and Taylor Avenue, opened to the public on Saturday 16 December 2000. The cafe caters for one hundred patrons inside and up to seventy outside, in a paved courtyard.
A souvenir shop is included within the complex and there is an an historical display which explains the drink's beginnings at Paeroa's natural mineral water spring. A 5.8 metre high L&P bottle icon stands outside the building.
At the opening, a new L&P soft drink-flavoured ice cream was launched. This was designed by Mark Scorgie from the Gourmet Ice Cream Company of Dunedin.