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 intrees. 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 Cemntral Road and ran his own farm on Waiwhero Road at Ngatimoti, where he served as the local postmaster for many years.

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)

Packing apples at Remnants' "Roseneath" farm, Ngatimoti. 
Boxes are labelled "One bushell choice apples
 grown in Ngatimoti, Nelson, NZ"
and one is also labelled "Roseneath Apples"
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 "Paparoa" arrived in England 10 May 1910 and not surpringly, 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.

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 large 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 on the hill, near the bottom. 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?  

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

Berkett’s truck loading packed apple cases at Ngatimoti. 
Photo: Nelson Provincial Museum, Guy Collection, ref 


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

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

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

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