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Manufacturing in New Zealand Timeline

Monday 23 July 2007, 4:50PM
By Infonews Editor
5024 views


New Zealand has a proud manufacturing history. Read this short summary of manufacturing in these islands by Radio New Zealand’s Jim Sullivan and Ana Tapiata.

The story of New Zealand manufacturing has a cast of a quarter of a million people. That’s 250,000 workers who are making something in this country, for this country. If it’s not you or I, it’s our parents, our children, our brothers, sisters or mates. It is their skills, determination, sacrifice and sheer hard work that allows this story to be told. (And remember, what you will read here is just a tiny part of the tale).

When you buy something that’s made in New Zealand, you’re contributing to the story too. You’re keeping wheels turning, people working and our prosperity growing.

It’s impossible to tell all the stories, but in this celebration of New Zealand manufacturers we’ll try and introduce you to a handful of our amazing Kiwi manufacturers.


900-1200 Nga Kakano – The Seeds
Tattooing, canoe-building, making of adzes, fishhooks, tapa, netting, basketry and the shaping of patu were among skills brought to New Zealand.

1200-1500 Te Tipunga – The Growth
The methods and styles developed. Among the objects created for daily life were flax pounders, canoe bailers, flutes, feather boxes, sinkers, serving bowls, burial chests, pendants and weapons. The “Kaitaia lintel” in the Auckland Museum is known to have come from this period.

1500-1800 Te Puawaitanga – The Flowering
Carving and decoration became freer as large war canoes and wharenui (meeting houses) were built, and was seen in objects like whalebone combs.

1796
The colonial boat-building industry began when castaways at Dusky Sound built New Zealand’s first ship using a partly-completed craft made by sealers four years earlier.

1853
The first substantial manufacture of cloth in New Zealand was undertaken in Dunedin by John Barr, an immigrant from Paisley, Scotland.

1868
Biscuitmaker R Hudson & Co sets up in Dunedin. As Cadbury Fry Hudson Ltd from 1930, Cadbury Schweppes Hudson Ltd from 1973 and now Cadbury Confectionery Ltd, it has remained one of Dunedin’s largest employers for 130 years.

1871
Cheese begins to be manufactured in New Zealand’s first co-operative dairy company on the Otago peninsula.

1873
Large-scale cloth-making began with the Mosgiel woollen factory for which Arthur Burns had brought skilled labour and specialised equipment from Britain.

1873
Henry Shacklock of Dunedin designed and began manufacture of coal ranges, the most famous being the Orion.

1876
New Zealand’s first large-scale machine-made paper plant was established at Mataura after the success of a smaller operation at Woodhaugh, Dunedin.

1876
John Donaghy sets up one of New Zealand’s first rope-making plants, a branch of Australian Michael Donaghy. The business was bought out by locals and renamed Donaghy’s Rope and Twine Co Ltd. Today, Donaghy’s Industries is one of New Zealand’s largest rural manufacturers, and the supplier of ropes to the America’s Cup team.

1878
Reid and Grey began their successful agricultural implement manufacturing business with a demonstration of their reaping and binding machine at Tokomairiro, near Milton.

1879
Robert McKinlay began a footwear manufacturing plant in Dunedin which is still run by his descendants and their entirely Dunedin-made products are marketed throughout New Zealand and Australia.

1879
The largest of Otago’s woollen mills of the day, Roslyn Mill in Kaikorai Valley, was set up, eventually employing up to 500 staff. The owners, Ross and Glendining Ltd, expanded to other plants across New Zealand and by 1948 employed 2000 staff nationwide.

1884
Tinsmith John Eustace of Dunedin developed an air tight tin lid with a lip. Although others copied the idea, he was making 100 tonnes of tin cans a year in the 1920s.

1884
Brick, tile and pottery maker McSkimming Industries sets up associated companies and plants in Otago. The company was sold to a Wellington investment company in 1976 and on to Ceramco Ltd in 1980.

1896
James Henry Whittaker, who started in confectionery in Britain at the age of 14, founds the company in Christchurch which later transfers to Wellington and becomes the present day chocolate-maker Whittaker’s.

1897
Cecil Wood of Timaru built New Zealand’s first four-wheeled motor car just a year after the first cars had been imported.

1897
Sir John Logan Campbell joins forces with the brewing business of the Ehrenfried brothers in Auckland, establishing Campbell and Ehrenfried the forerunner of modern-day brewing giant Lion Breweries, since become the multinational Lion Nathan.

1898
New Zealand Wax Vesta company begins manufacture of local matches in Dunedin.

1900
Edward Halsey, an American Seventh-day Adventist and baker trained at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, makes batches of granola, New Zealand’s first breakfast cereal, caramel cereals (a coffee substitute) and wholemeal bread in a wooden shed in Christchurch, products that become known as Sanitarium health foods. The Sanitarium company’s New Zealand operations are now on three sites and generate a turnover of $100 million annually.



Timeline 1901-1994
1901
Ernest Godward of Invercargill invented a simple spiral shaped hairpin, the rights to which he sold to an American company, but his invention would earn him the equivalent of $1 million.

1903
Richard Pearse of Waitohi, near Temuka, made a short but uncontrolled flight in his home-made aeroplane some nine months before the first successful flight by the Wright brothers.

1904
Ernest Moss of Christchurch invents a coin-operated letter franking machine.

1905
The world’s first automatic stamp vending machine, invented by Robert Dickie and J H Brown, was installed in Wellington. From 1918 the New Zealand Government began producing them and they were serviced and improved by the inventor up to the 1950s.

1910
The New Zealand-designed wide, 13-tooth shearing comb was in use and was manufactured to become the standard comb world-wide.

1913
Faced with the problem of being constantly wet from New Zealand’s ever-present rain, Taranaki tailor William Broome invents an all-wool shirt with secret waterproofing which becomes the Swanndri, because the raindrops were dispersed like water off a swan’s back. The iconic garment continues to be manufactured today.

1913
The world’s first automatic totalisator machine, invented by George Julius, the son of an Anglican bishop, was used at Ellerslie by the Auckland Racing Club.

1913
Arthur Ellis & Co. Ltd bedding and upholstery manufacturer registered in Dunedin. The firm’s trade names Sleepwell (mattresses) and Fairydown (quilts) became well-known. Keen trampers in the Ellis Family promoted the manufacture of world-class outdoor clothing and sleeping bags, two of which were used by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing during the ascent of Mt Everest in 1953.

1920s
C Woledge of Christchurch invented a portable cylinder phonograph which was approved by Thomas Edison and 36 of the model were manufactured.

1922
New Zealand glass and bottle manufacturing plant set up in Penrose by Australian Glass Manufacturer’s Company – later Australian Consolidated Industries (ACI) after 1939 – to overcome chronic shortage of beer bottles. Local breweries since the mid-19th century had been re-using empty English beer bottles.

1925
Shacklock’s of Dunedin produce the first electric ranges in New Zealand.

1929
John Hart of Manawatu invented the Thermette which became famous during World War II as the “Benghazi boiler/burner” and remained in production long after.

1930
Winstone Wallboard takes control of NZ Wallboards, making trademarked “gibraltar” board, or gib board which is manufactured in Auckland to this day.

1930s
Bill Gallagher devised a system of electric fencing and by the 1960s his Hamilton-produced product was being used world-wide.

1933
After a Buy New Zealand Made campaign a factory in Penrose, Auckland, began producing the first New Zealand-made rubber products. The company later became Reidrubber.

1934
Todd Motor Industries Limited plant established in Petone for the assembly of CKD (Completely Knocked Down) vehicles from Chrysler and Rootes. By 1964, Todd Motors was assembling and selling around 10,000 cars each year.

1936
Ford’s first car assembly plant in New Zealand, Seaview, was set up at Petone and in use until the business transferred to Wiri in 1988. The building has a Historic Places II category listing.

Mid-1940s
Hector and John Ramsay of Auckland release a series of wooden toys which include the Buzzy Bee, soon to become a children’s favourite and New Zealand icon.

1949
John Walsh, Dean of the Otago University Dental School designed and patented a high speed dental drill which reduced dramatically the pain of tooth drilling and his design is still used today.

1950s
C W F (Bill) Hamilton of Irishman’s Creek, South Canterbury, developed jet propulsion for boats to navigate the shallow Canterbury rivers upstream. The propulsion unit is used worldwide and the waterjet business in Canterbury today employs 250 people.

1954
Waihi-based radio manufacturers, Pye, arranged for cameras to cover a local rugby game in a closed-circuit broadcast and went on to be a major manufacturer of television sets from the 1960s.

1955
The Tasman Pulp and Paper newsprint plant at Kawerau began production. With the assistance of New Zealand Government investment to keep the mill open, today owners Norske Skog employ 600 people and produce 380,000 tonnes per year from the mill.

1956
Colin Murdoch designed and invented the disposable syringe, saving millions of human lives. He also conceived and developed the tranquilliser dart gun, saving millions of animals.

1957
Maurice Yock of Auckland registered the name Jandal for a new type of foot wear he had designed which was initially manufactured by Skellerup of Christchurch.

1958
Wairakei geothermal power station began operation, initially producing 6,500 kilowatts.

1958
Skellerup Industries in Christchurch produced a new design of gumboot, the Red Band, which went on to account for 90 percent of all gumboot purchases by farmers.

1964
Taranaki farmer Brian Murphy designed an animal identification tag which led to the Allflex range which was to be manufactured world-wide.

1967
New Zealand built Airtourer planes began to be exported from Hamilton to Britain and later, as the CT-4 Airtrainer, the planes were used in New Zealand, Australia and Thailand.

1968
Norma McCulloch of Rongotea devised a freezer vacuum pump which was sold world-wide and led to a range of similar products.

1969
The Glenbrook Steel Mill began production.

1970s
Ray Williams developed the electronic petrol pump and soon employed 280 people in his Marton factory.

1971
The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter opened near Bluff. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (NZAS) achieved record production in 2005 of 351,449 tonnes of aluminium, 90 percent of which was for export markets. The smelter is the largest single site exporter in New Zealand and employs 780 people.

1972
John Hough developed the Tullen snips, scissors which could cut items as tough as one cent coins and by the 1980s more than 20 million had been made.

1982
Opening of Kapuni ammonia-urea plant which today produces around 260,000 tonnes annually. Urea is used in the manufacture of fertiliser.

1982
Dr John Baeyertz developed the Baeyertz Tape for accurately estimating birth dates, still used world-wide today.

1988
Buy New Zealand Made Campaign Ltd, with its famous ‘kiwi in the triangle’ logo, is launched by the NZ Manufacturers’ Federation and NZ Council of Trade Unions.

1991
After years of development, the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute released the world’s first spreadable butter, which was then made by New Zealand dairy co-operatives and now by Fonterra.

1994
Kia Kaha Clothing was established as a casual apparel mail-order business, operating from a garage. It specialises in providing high quality apparel with authentic and distinctive Maori designs.