Northland's First Co-operative Dairy Company ?

These days we are more familiar with the name Fonterra than we would be with the early co-operative dairy companies that sprung up around the small settlements across New Zealand.In the small village of Paparoa, in the Kaipara District, Northland's earliest possible dairy co-operative was formed. Its life was all but a short one, lasting a mere total of four years. A cheese factory was built in the township, the foundation block laid by the Bishop of Auckland. Operations commenced in late 1895 under the management of former Eltham dairy factory manager John Hurley. In early 1896 bush fires and drought halved milk production in local dairy herds, later in the year the directors decided to lease the factory out to Hurley, who continued with operations until his unexpected death (aged 33 years) in April 1897. By November 1897 it was realised that the company was in heavy debt, with a substantial overdraft owed to the bank of £310. Management was placed under Percy Rae, with William Davis appointed as secretary of the company. In 1898 the building and plant had been auctioned off to William Davis and his business partner R.R Skelton. By 1899 the two men were using the cheese factory for a gristing mill. I found one further mention of the factory in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Province] 1902. After that so far my searches have come up with no further mentions of the building. Its exactly location is unknown, or if it is still standing. The only clue we do have is that the building was built on William Davis' land 'by the bridge'. The entrances to the Paparoa Village have two bridges at either end. Which bridge it was, at this stage we can't ascertain. The Matakohe Museum are kindly looking into this for me and hopefully they may come up with some clues. Below is the article timeline for the Paparoa Co-operative Dairy Factory Limited. Its closed company files are currently stored at National Archives in Auckland. It is not the first factory in Northland however, that honour is held by Maungakaramea when a cheese factory was established in 1884 by the Maungakaramea Cheese, Butter and Bacon Company. The company survived until 1889 when the directors chose to voluntarily wind up the company and appoint a liquidator (ref: Stuart Park Historic Places Trust NZ see 'further notes' at the end of this blog post for details).

1895 -1899 Article Timeline
A further meeting of those interested in the proposed cheese-factory, took place in Mr Cliff's hall on Saturday, July 21st, Mr Skelton in the chair. It was resolved. That Messrs .Jas. Cliff and Ernest Tibbits canvass the district to ascertain what number of cows each supplier will milk, and also what number of shares parties are willing to take. These gentlemen will report to another meeting of those interested. Although the project of asking an outside company (as for instance, Messrs Reynolds, or the New Zealand Dairy Association) to step in, and undertake the business has been "mooted," the settlers in that case simply to be "suppliers," still, a majority of those present at the meeting were in favour of a factory run on co-operative lines, in which the farmers would have an interest, and the profits of which would not go outside the settlement. The establishment of a factory, could such be successfully started and worked, would certainly be a great boon to the district, as it has proved in other parts of the country where factories are in operation.

Auckland Star 26 July 1894


 It is now definitely decided that a cheese factory in our settlement is to be an accomplished fact. A meeting of suppliers and shareholders took place in Mr Cliff's hall on Saturday, October 20th, Mr Skelton in the chair. It was resolved, "That Mr Hook's action in calling an early meeting be endorsed." Four additional shares were reported. The report of the Committee regarding the site of proposed factory, was received. Mr W. Davis's site was recommended, on account of facility for obtaining water. It was resolved-: (1) That Mr Davis' offer of half-acre next the bridge for £10 be accepted as a factory site, subject to the condition of the company being formed." 2. "That Mr Skelton prepare memorandum of association, and that Mr E. Tibbits wait on the shareholders for their signatures, being authorised to receive 2s 6d per share on allotment." A further meeting was arranged for Friday, November 2nd, at 7.30 p.m

Auckland Star 26 October 1894



 Matters in connection with our local Dairy Factory Company are moving on a pace. The directors—Messrs G. Skelton, E. Tibbits, G. Tibbits, A. C. Hames, G. Cliff. W. Hook, and R. Sterling—have the affairs of the Company in hand, and are holding meetings at intervals. Steps are being taken re registration, which will be effected shortly, Mr E. C. Beale having been engaged to attend to this. Arrangements are being carried out re timber for the building the logs have been purchased locally, and will be conveyed to one of the neighbouring mills to be cut up. It is expected the factory will be erected before the end of April, and will, of course, commence operations in the spring. It has been decided to request a visit from the dairy expert, whose advice and instruction re building the factory, etc., would be of value. The directors passed a resolution regretting the removal of Mr Lang, Dairy Expert, from the Auckland district, and praying that he be re-appointed or a suitable man put in his place.

Auckland Star 7 February 1895


Paparoa, this day,

 The Bishop of Auckland laid the foundation block of the Paparoa cooperative cheese factory yesterday in the presence of a number of residents and the school children. In his address he pointed out the great benefit the factory would be to the district, giving the directors some wholesome advice and wishing them every success. The Rev. E. H. Wyatt and others also spoke briefly. The contractors, Messrs Weber, are now proceeding with the erection, and voluntary labour having been given addition the building will be cheaply built). Mr Chadwick, of Pahi, contributed by cutting half of the timber free. The factory will commence operations in the spring.

Auckland Star 23 April 1895

The cheese factory is slowly approaching completion. The registration of the company is about to be effected, after some delay.

Auckland Star 18 June 1895


 The building of the Co-operative Dairy Factory is now completed. The directors are just about to procure the necessary machinery. Mr J. D. Hurley, late manager of the Eltham Dairy Factory, has accepted the position of manager. The factory will commence work-in the course of a month or two.

Auckland Star 12 August 1895


 A successful meeting of shareholders in the above and the general public took place on the 30th September, Mr Skelton in the chair. The balance-sheet and statement of assets and liabilities were received and adopted. The retiring directors, Messrs E. Skelton, G, Cliff, senr., R. Stirling, O. C. Hames. E. Tibbits, G. Tibbits and W. Hook, were re-elected, with the latter as Secretary, Mr, E. Tibbits as Treasurer, and Messrs W. Hames and T. W. Wilson as auditors. It was unanimously resolved, on the suggestion of the manager, Mr Hurley, to purchase milk at per centum of butter fat, thus paying, according to the true value, and not per gallon. A deputation was appointed to wait on the County Council, on behalf of the suppliers, to get some needed repairs done to the road, and to get the river cleared from the factory to Fenwick's landing. During the evening, Mr Hurley read an able paper on "The Production and Treatment of Milk" and it was suggested that this be printed, if possible, for the use of suppliers.

Auckland Star 7 October 1895

A dairy factory has just been started on co-operative principles at Paparoa, Auckland. This is the northernmost factory in New Zealand.

Hawera and Normanby Star 24 October 1895



 (BY telegraph.— own correspondent.)

 Paparoa, this day. We are experiencing the severest drought  known for some years. Pastures are parched up and the supply of milk to the dairy factory has fallen to less than one half. Bush fires have done considerable damage, in some cases destroying settlers orchards, pastures and fencing. Mr E. Redfern's house at Mareretu (unoccupied) has been destroyed and other settlers have lost some stock through suffocation.

Auckland Star 21 February 1896


Paparoa, this day. At a meeting held on Monday evening the directors decided to hand over the factory to the manager, Mr Hurley, to work on his own account for the coming season, with the option of renewing the lease for five years. Mr Hurley has agreed with too suppliers upon 2¾d per gallon as the price to be paid for milk, the standard of quality to be 3.6, or he is willing to pay at par centum of butter fat 6½d per lb. Payment to the suppliers is guaranteed monthly. The last season's output of cheese has been disposed of.

Auckland Star 18 August 1896



Paparoa, this day. The dairy factory commenced operations to day, under the control of Mr J. Hurley, who has leased the building and plant from the directors for the season. The supply of milk was considered satisfactory, and there is an encouraging prospect of an increase as the season advances.

Auckland Star 7 October 1896


Death of John Hurley

Paparoa, this day. Mr John D. Hurley, manager of the Paparoa dairy factory, died on Friday evening last, aged 33. He leaves a wife and two young children. His remains were conveyed yesterday to Whangarei Heads for interment.

Auckland Star 19 April 1897

The remains of the late J. D. H. Hurley were interred in the Whangarei Heads Cemetery, under the shadow of Mount Manaia, on Easter Monday. The cemetery is near Parua Bay, where the relatives of the widow of the deceased reside, and he was buried there in accordance with Mrs Hurley's wish. The body was conveyed from Paparoa overland to Maungapaia, a distance of thirty miles, and from thence to the burial ground, a distance of about eighteen miles in a yacht. Many friends attended the funeral for the first mile as it left Paparoa, and others joined again at the cemetery. Indigestion, the cause of death, is distinctly traceable by the medical attendant to the ill effects of factory work on weakened digestive organs.

Hawera and Normanby Star 26 April 1897

At the annual meeting of the shareholders of the Paparoa Co-operative Dairy Factory Company, the balance sheet, read by the secretary, Mr Litherland, showed a credit balance of some £33 on the past season's operations, which considering the unfavourable season and other drawbacks, was thought most satisfactory. The balance will be applied to the reduction of the bank overdraft An effort will be made to pay off half the overdraft by the 1st January, 1898, and the balance by 1st January, 1899, thus relieving the Company of the heavy yearly charge for interest. The overdraft now stands at about £310. The factory re-commenced operations on the 3rd November, under the management of Mr Percy Rae, of Opunake   Mr Wm. Davis is the new secretary to the company.

Auckland Star 4 November 1897



PAPAROA, this day,

 The Paparoa Co-operative Dairy Company's buildings and plant were to-day auctioned by Mr Thomas Wakelin.  Mr William Davis was the buyer at the sum of £152. The property originally cost-some £600. Mr Davis intends to hold the factory with a view to future working. The directors will be enabled to pay off the balance of the bank overdraft, some £80, and repay the shareholders a portion of the money invested. This season's output of cheese is all disposed of.

Auckland Star 26 May 1898

As reported by wire on Thursday, the local dairy factory has been purchased by Mr William Davis, in partnership with Mr R. R. Skelton, at the sum of £152. It is not yet certain whether Messrs Davis and Skelton will work the factory during the coming summer; this will depend wholly on the supply of milk likely to be forthcoming. In any case they purpose utilising the machinery for private purposes, such as motive power for chaff cutting, etc., until the cheese-making plant and appliances will he preserved intact and in good order, in readiness to be used should a sufficient guarantee of milk be available.

Auckland Star 1 June 1898


(From Our Own Correspondent.)

 Messrs Davis and Skelton, who purchased the machinery and plan of the Paparoa Co-operative Dairy Factory Company, having secured necessary appliances have been utilizing the motive power for flour milling purposes, and during the last two months have been busily engaged gristing for settlers. The firm has put through some 600 bushels in this way, some of  the grain having come a considerable distance. The establishment of a flour-mill in. the district will prove a boom to the settlers, and should have the effect of greatly stimulating the wheat-growing industry.

Auckland Star 15 June 1899


Paparoa village, four miles and a half by road, has also water communication with Pahi by the Pahi and Paparoa rivers, and all heavy goods are taken that way; coaches running for the passenger traffic. It has Church of England and Wesleyan places of worship, with parsonages, a school, a cheese factory, stores, and the shops of saddlers, butchers, and blacksmiths.


Stuart Park of the Historic Places Trust (Northland) recently published a report on the North Kaipara Co-operative Dairy Company Building down at Whakapirau. In his report he gave an outline of the history of dairy factories in Northland. He noted the earliest factory established in Northland was in Maungakaramea near Whangarei which was established in 1884. I did some further investigation and found the name of the company was known by Maungakaramea Cheese, Butter and Bacon Manufacturing Company. The company existed from 1884-1889. The factory was later advertised for sale after the directors chose to voluntarily wind up the company and appoint a liquidator . The factory was advertised with machinery and 6 acres of land. Whether or not the factory still stands at this stage is unknown.


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