Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ngatimoti Co-operative Apple Packhouse

Ngatimoti Co-operative Apple Pack house (1916 -ca. 1925)

Apple picking at Ngatimoti
 The first farmers in the Motueka Valley planted orchards for their own use with a wide variety of fruits such apples, plums, pears and peaches, the excess often being traded in exchange for grocery items with  Motueka retailers like Manoys and Rankins, who did regular deliveries with store carts around Ngatimoti. Early varities of apples grown  were Sturmers, Cox's Orange, Washingtons, Epp's Seedlings, Dunn's Favourite, Rokewood and Lord Wolseleys. (1)

By the turn of the 20th century commercial orchards were well-establishedin the area, however transport to markets was a major issue and pests like codlin moth and woolly aphids were a real problem - codlin moth was reported as creating havoc in apple crops as early as 1892. (2) Growers tried a number of remedies including mixtures of tobacco and soap and also placed lamps in trees. Some removed grubs form the trees by hand, a very time-consuming task. James Chapman from Pangatotara, one of the biggest local orchardists, grew Siberian Crab and kept an accurate account of the large number of grubs he caught in one season. (3)

Loading boxes of apples into
a cart at Ngatimoti.
In the Lower Moutere, farmers and orchardists gathered in June 1896, with John Guy as president to discuss establishing a marketing agency in Wellington to sell their produce. They propsed to follow up with a meeting at Ngatimoti. John Guy had ties to both Lower Moutere, where his father Walter had a farm on Central Road and ran his own farm on Waiwhero Road at Ngatimoti. He also served as the local postmaster for many years., running it from a room in his home at Ngatimoti, called 'Sunny Brae".

In September 1906 the Motueka Orchardists Association arranged distribution of a paste of arsenic of lead in 3lb lots to Association members and could be obtained from Barty Lloyd and Herbert Thomason and others. Another method used to control disease was the spraying of apples with arsenate of lead, lime-sulphur and Bordeaux sprays. Fruit was graded by hand and packed in 40 pund cases, the cases being made up on wet days. The fruit was mainly shipped to Wellington but any profits were swallowed by costs. 

Orchard inspector Mr Hallam visited Ngatimoti in March 1910 to describe packing techniques. The Ngatimoti Association fruitgrowers marked their cases "One Bushel Choice Apples Grown by Ngatimoti Association, Nelson, New Zealand", plus the growers' initials. (4)

Jonathan apples being packed for export beneath under the old oak tree planted by Christopher Remnant, grown from acorns brought out from Guildford, England, on the ship "Anne Dymes". Taken before World War One at "Roseneath", Ngatimoti. L-R:-James Remnant, Clara Rankin, Rosa Remnant and Doris Remnant (stamping papers). Hector Guy picking in the orchard, photographer his brother Walter. Possiby taken in conjunction with the first ever export trial from Nelson to England in 1910. 
By January 1910 there were six canning factories operating in Motueka, and March that year saw a trial shipment of apples for England loaded onto the "Paparoa"- the first direct export of fruit. The fruit included apple varieties Scarlet Permain, Pippin, French Crab and Prince Alfred. The first ocean-going steamer to visit Nelson, the "S.S. Paparoa" arrived in England on 10 May 1910 and not surprisingly, some of the fruit was reported as over-ripe. (5) Among the local growers recorded as sending fruit were:

J. L Whelan, Ngatimoti, 20 cases                                             J. Chapman, Pangatotara, 30 cases
J.G.Beatson 30 cases                                                                B. Lloyd 500 cases
J.E. Hill 10 cases                                                                      Chas. R. Heath, Ngatimoti, 30 cases                                                                      
R. Croudis 10 cases                                                                  J.W.G. Beatson, Ngatimoti, 30 ases
H.H. Beatson 50 cases                                                              E. Holyoake, Ngatimoti, 10 cases                                                            
James Remnant 50 cases                                                           B.L.Lloyd, Motueka wharf, 500 cases
Thomas Thomason, Ngatimoti, 100 cases                                J.D. Knowles, 50 cases
H. Thomason 50 cases                                                              J. Green, Ngatimoti, 10 cases George Grooby, Pangatotara, 150 cases                                                J.A. Guy, Ngatimoti, 40 cases                                                                     J.W. Wills, Ngatimoti, 40 cases. 

An account of the annual Nelson District Fruitgrowers Association meeting for 1910 shows that Ngatimoti growers played an active part in the organisation.  (6)

The Fruit Industry
Colonist, 11 0ctober, 1910.

Tissue-wrapped apples packed in boxes
ready to be closed up and transported.
In 1911 Mr H. Haycock picked 92 cases of apples from 11 trees, with two trees yielding 32 cases. James Remnant from "Roseneath" farm on Waiwhero Road, was one who exported apples on the "S.S. Rimutaka"; Jonathans and Munro's Favourite. The condition of the apples after the voyage remained a concern.

James Remnant's apple crop ws badly damaged during a violet hailstorm on 29 December 1912, the fruit suffering perforation and pitting as a result. This would have represented a significant loss.

Mr Thorpe, Ministry of Agriculture expert ,
demonstrates apple packing at Mr Izard's 

Stoke orchard, February 1912.
Nelson Provincial Museum:
F. N. Jones Collection
In May 1913, Mr Thorpe, a Government fruit expert, gave demonstration of apple packing was given in Jim Remnant's orchard to a number of interested spectators and Mrs Remnant supplied afternoon tea afterwards.  

By 1914 the Nelson district, including Ngatimoti, was described as having extensive plabntings of apple trees.                                                                                                   

The idea of setting up a local pack house at Ngatimoti was first mooted at a meeting held at Ngatimoti in July, 1916 , under the auspices of Nelson District Fruitpackers' Ltd, with a special committee formed to look into finding a suitable site and possibilities for building a local packing shed. The committee appointed consisted of Neville Pownall, Albert Leslie Cederman, George & Guthrie Beatson, Tom Strachan and Herbert (Bert) Canton. A possible site at Pangatotara was discussed.

The Fruit Industry: Meeting at Ngatimoti
"Nelson Evening Mail", 6 July, 1916.

A further meeting devoted to the subject of a Ngatimoti packing shed was held in early July, 1916.

Jim Remnant's apple orchard at "Roseneath",
Waiwhero Road, NgatimotiNelson Provincial Museum:
Guy Collection, ref. 315074

To the Fruitgrowers of Ngatimoti, Pokororo and Orinoco: Special Meeting to be held at the Schoolroom, Ngatimoti, 5 July, 1916.
"Nelson Evening Mail", 29 June, 1916

A  rough and ready grading and packing shed was ultimately set up on the flat on the foot of Church Hill, almost opposite the site of the former Ngatimoti creamery, close to the Brethren Meeting Hall which was in a layby near the foot of the hill. The land on the flat then belonged to James Remnant. He had an apple orchard on his land at the top of Church Hill on the Waiwhero ridge, so it would probably have been in his own interests to have a packing shed nearby. The land on which the packing shed stood remained in Remnant’s hands – perhaps a rental was paid by the growers who used the packhouse?  

Local orchardists took turns working at the packhouse and it appears to have been in operation into around 1925, but apples were soon superseded by a much more profitable and reliable crop; tobacco, which remained the Motueka Valley's horticultural staple from the late 1920s until the 1990s.                                                                  

Pat Beatson, whose father George had a farm at the Ngatimoti Peninsula,  noted:

“A good many local farmers were caught up in the orcharding movement and a co-operative grading and packing shed was built at Ngatimoti near where the Brethren Hall then stood. The shed was built under the shady side of the hill, making it a cold place to work.
Only known photograph taken of the Ngatimoti apple packhouse
from the inside. Packers not identified. Date ca 1916-1922
Alas, for many farmers in the district this new venture was fairly short-lived, at least in the outer fringes of the fruit-growing area. The first great enthusiasm was waning: many growers found there was no golden bonanza. The export marketing organisation was slow in becoming firmly established and a good many growers depended on local markets. I’ve no idea what happened to the Ngatimoti packing shed but as far as I know there is now no sign of its former existence”.

Although the old Brethren Hall still stood in situ when we McFadgens came to Ngatimoti in 1980 (on what is now the site of Graham & Jenny Grant’s house), there was no sign then of the pack house on the flats below Church Hill, which were at that time part of our farm. It has been established since that Fred Biggs demolished the old packing shed around 1945, a few years after buying Jim Remnant’s farm.

 Local carrier Arthur Berkett’s truck loading packed apple cases at Ngatimoti. 
The man with the hat standing in front of the truck is almost certainly
James Remnant, owner of the land where the packhouse stood
and the packhouse is probably the building in behind.
Photo: Nelson Provincial Museum, Guy Collection, ref 315134


1) Whelan, Helen. Ngatimoti is in the News: Part One. Apple Orchards. (Unpub. ms)

2) Ngatimoti Correspondent, 26 January 1892
"Nelson Evening Mail" 27 January, 1892, pg 2

3) "Colonist" 4 April 1892, pg 3 Correspondence

4) Apples for Export
"Colonist" 22 March 1910, pg 1

5)  Export of Apples
"Colonist" 9 March 1910, pg 2

6) The Fruit Industry
Colonist, 11 0ctober, 1910


Whelen, Helen. Ngatimoti is in the News. Part One. (unpub. ms) 
Copy held by the Motueka & District Historical Association

Beatson, C.B. (Pat) (1992) The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti As I Remember. Nelson, NZ: Nikau Press. Ch 9 Early Fruit Growing, pp 69-72

Photo credits

Apple picking at Ngatimoti
Nelson Provincial Museum: Guy Collection ref. 315078

Packing apples at Remnants' "Roseneath" farm, Waiwhero Road, Ngatimoti
Nelson Provincial Museum: Guy Collection, ref. 315080
Details supplied by Mrs A. Clarke, granddaughter of Doris Gray nee Remnant, who was the young girl shown in this photograph,

Tissue-wrapped apples ready to be closed up and transported
Nelson Provincial Museum Guy Collection ref. 315079

Mr Thorpe, Ministry of Agriculture expert, demonstrates apple packing at 
Mr Izard's Stoke orchard, February 1912.
Nelson Provincial Museum, F.N. Jones Collection, ref. 321246

Note: this instructor was very likely to have been John Herbert Thorp, a fruit inspector who took a job with the NZ Agricultural Dept around 1900/1905. He moved to Nelson in 1912 to support the rapidly  expanded fruit industry there and became the first manager of the Government Research Orchard at Appleby.  
"Nelson Evening Mail", 25 Aug 1937, pg 4
Transfer of Orchard Instructor: Mr J.H. Thorp Leaves Nelson.

Jim Remnant's apple orchard at Ngatimoti (today 864 Waiwhero Road)
Nelson Provincial Museum, Guy Collection, acc. no. A4033.

Berkett's truck loading packed apples at Ngatimoti
Nelson Provincial museum, Guy Collection, ref 315134

Inside the Ngatimoti apple packhouse, packers not identified.
Date ca 1916-1922
Photographer: John Edward Salisbury (1861-1924), a man of many interests
who ran a 650 acre farm known as "Middlebank" at the junction of the Lloyd Valley and Thorp-Orinoco Roads.

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