Dairy Farming in Golden Bay
“Our todays and yesterdays are the blocks with which we build.”
So it was written in 1952, when the Golden Bay Cooperative Dairy Company released a brochure to mark its 50th jubilee.
The Golden Bay Cooperative Dairy Company was formed in 1902. Local farmers considered establishing their own cooperative butter factory in 1893. An active campaign was mounted to persuade local farmers to take up shares, but the response was disappointing. A meeting was called, during which the only positive outcome was the formation of the first Golden Bay Agricultural and Pastural Show committee. Their inaugural show was held in 1894.
The vision was taken up by John Langridge, who had taken over an established business in Takaka and decided to extend the operation to include a butter factory on the hillside near the factory today. He was joined in this enterprise by James Sadd and the business’s trading name became JJ Langridge and Co.
The butter factory opened on November 11, 1894 and received 1203lbs of milk in the first week. The following year, 1895, Langridge and Co was awarded the first in the factory’s long line of butter championships when it won the Wellington A&P Association’s first prize for separator butter.
The first factory was situated about half a mile from the Takaka township. The main building was 45 feet long and 25 feet wide. The engine room was fitted with a four horsepower engine, a six horsepower boiler (with the latest De Laval separator) and a pasturiser.
By 1902, Golden Bay was ready for a cooperative dairy factory. The Advances to Settlers Act in 1894 and the availability of finance encouraged stable farming conditions. In August that year, WJ Reillly drew up an agreement with Messrs Langridge and Sadd for the purchase of their butter factory, a move which signalled a new period of progress for farmers in the region, and the birth of the Golden Bay Cooperative Dairy Company.
Over the next few years the introduction of telephones and electricity contributed to the development of the company. Bridges and roads were built. Then came a daily mail service and a one ton Ford. Then a typewriter. Gone were the days of racing carts over bumpy dirt roads to see who could get their butter to the factory first.
In 1964 tanker collection of milk was introduced and in 1968 the casein factory began operation.
The 1980s sparked a decade of expansion for the company, which culminated in the merging of Golden Bay and Waimea cooperative dairy companies in 1988. Tasman Milk Products (pictured right) was the result of this venture, with manufacturing sites in both Golden Bay and Brightwater.
By 1994 two hundred suppliers serviced the factories, delivering more than 600,000 litres of milk a day during peak collection. The company employed 110 staff and an impressive fleet of Scania tankers.
Tasman Milk Products commissioned a $2.7 million expansion of its plant in Takaka in September 1998, which almost doubled the factory’s milk processing capacity. The additional casein line enabled the company to handle its milk with more flexibility. The company processed approximately one million litres of milk a day with the help of its second line, compared with 730,000 litres the previous season. The total capacity of the new line was 1.24 million.
In 2000 Kiwi Co-operative Dairies merged with Tasman Milk Products. As part of the merger terms, Tasman shareholders became full shareholders in Kiwi. At this stage the company had 212 suppliers, accounting for about 1.5 per cent of New Zealand milk, and ownership of a similar proportion of the Dairy Board’s shares. The merger was seen as “a further step toward the rationalization of the dairy industry”.
A year later in July 2001, 84 per cent of the farmers involved voted to accept the merger of the New Zealand Dairy Board, New Zealand Dairy Group and Kiwi Co-operative Dairies. The merger was consummated in October of that year and a new company, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, was created. Fonterra is co-operatively owned by New Zealand dairy farmers, representing about 96 per cent of all dairy farmers in the country.
In 2005 a terrible fire ripped through the factory and just under 1,000 tonnes of casein was destroyed. The factory’s future was in doubt, as was the staff’s who were warned they may not have jobs to return to. Thankfully, Fonterra made the decision to rebuild its fire-ravaged dairy factory, at least partially.