A Household Name for Woollen Mills
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For a century Kaiapoi was a household name for the excellence of its woollen mill. It closed in August 1978.
You can see what is left of the mill at the western edge of Kaiapoi Park, on the northern bank of the river. The former mill is home to many local businesses today, so in another way gives employment to many people.
New Zealand has always been known as a land of sheep, so it is no wonder that it once had huge woollen manufacturing companies and mills. Kaiapoi was – due to its strategic location on the river, once called North Branch of the Waimakariri – an important place of this industry. The ships could travel upstream as far as the Woollen Mill to load goods.
A look into the history (based on the texts of the Waimakariri District Council - http://www.waimakariri.govt.nz/library/history_files/KaiapoiMill.pdf):
The wool export industry boomed here, initially providing seasonal jobs in wool stores. Then came a shift from the export to the processing of wool, and from the late 19th century on Kaiapoi was known as a milling town.
The mill site was originally home to a flax mill that opened in 1866. It was built beside the Cam River, taking advantage of the flax boom that lasted until 1873, when the owners sold it to Canterbury Spinning and Weaving Company. Due to various problems the mill was sold to the newly formed Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company in 1878. It became one of the most important
industrial concerns in the colony of New Zealand, and the goods were well known throughout Australasia. Spinners and weavers were hired from England.
The factory expanded in 1886 at great expense, and lighting added, so it could
operate around the clock. The company aimed for employee satisfaction, introducing provisions such as subsided illness and accident care, and later a superannuation scheme. They also ran a free medical clinic.
The biggest problem after the turn of the century was a shortage of skilled workers (and the policy of only manufacturing wool products and no other fibres) which undercut the potential production of the factory. World War I brought in new contracts as cloth for military uniforms and blankets was needed. By 1920, the Mill was the biggest employer in town along with the freezing works.
The Great Depression in the 1930s caused wool prices to slump and exports being sold in very depressed markets. Plus the company faced competition from cheaper imported products at home. Business, working days and hours, employment and salaries went down steadily. The late 1930s became a boom time as more machinery was installed, and – like in World War I - the coming war also meant an economic resurgence. 80 per cent of the production was war-related.
Everything went quite well until the 1960’s when wool prices dropped. The mill could not increase production, there was no income to update the factory’s facilities. Plus, the company faced management problems, and matters began
In June 1963 the Kaiapoi Woollen Company merged with the Wellington Woollen Company, becoming Kaiapoi Petunia Group Textiles Ltd. New patterns were produced each season, and a new approach was taken with the production of knitting yarn. But after the death of a very competent manager in 1969 things went down. The Government’s price control scheme also had a negative impact. So in 1972, the Board of Directors accepted a takeover offer from the Otago company Mosgiel Woollens Ltd.
The new owners undertook a policy of ‘rationalisation’, which basically meant it would keep everything that benefited the company and discard the rest. By the end of the year, half of Kaiapoi’s salesmen had been given notice, and its spinning and woollen carding operation closed. The loss of jobs was the greatest Kaiapoi had since the Depression 40 years earlier and devastated the town.
During the next year, the worsted carding and combing sections closed and much of the other operations were shifted to Mosgiel, as the Kaiapoi plant would have needed expensive upgrading. This impacted on the town even further. In 1974, the finishing department was expandedto cope with the work coming from the other factories. However, in 1975, the company decided to phase out the old equipment in the weaving and wet finishing departments. So again, a lot of job losses. And in August 1978 the Mill finally closed.
After the closure Mosgiel Woollen Mills Ltd agreed to sell the buildings to the Kaiapoi Borough Council but there were disagreements, so the site was auctioned and purchased by the Shivas Family Trust in late 1980.
- Historical Travel
Maori History in Kaiapoi
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I have not visited the Maori Pa site yet, so let me just post some words here before I can give you an account of my personal impressions.
For a start: The Kaiapoi Pa site – a pa is a historic fortified Maori village – is not located in Kaiapoi but north of Woodend, which is the next town north of Kaiapoi. About 2 km north of Woodend (or if you come from the north: south of Waikuku) you have to turn right into Preeces Road, which then continues as Kaiapohia Road – and indicates that the Pa is here somewhere. The road ends at Waikuku Beach. But the Pa site is about 600 metres after the turn-off from SH 1 on Preeces Road.
The Kaiapoi Pa – also: Kaiapohia Pa - was one of the first established by the Ngai Tahu tribe after their migration from the North Island, in about 1700, and therefore one of the most important Pa sites in the South Island. (Ngai Tahu is the South Island’s biggest and main tribe.)
The area was very different than it is now. It was a peninsula of about two hectares reaching out into the many lagoons. The place was well protected with deep ditches, high earthwalls and stout palisades. About 1000 Maori lived there which was a lot. It was also home to the tribe’s leading chiefs.
Some notable feuds took place there. This finally led to the destruction of the Pa which had seemed impregnable in 1831, and to a cannibal feast initiated by the warrior Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa tribe. (He then sailed to Akaroa where he successfully attacked the remaining Ngai Tahu stronghold of Onawe – which is the peninsula that reaches into Akaroa Harbour.) It is said that the slaughter – aka feast – was so massive that 20 years later, the Reverend James Stack could start work on his section which adjoined the Pa, only after having carted off human bones by the drayload.
With the draining of swamps and lagoons, the Pa surroundings have changed so dramatically that you would not recognise them as such anymore. Only traces of the earthworks remain. The site appears as a green field covered in low mounds. Yet underneath this lie the remains of Ngai Tahu 's traditional cultural centre.
A circular column, crowned by a well-tattooed squatting figure, commemorates the site. It was erected in 1898.
- Historical Travel
The Handbag Scandal in the Movie Theatre
Favorite thing: Now I have written so much about the friendly people in this friendly town that you might think it is paradise within paradise... No, be aware, not every single person is friendly!
I remember a big story from last year when Kaiapoi got into the national spotlight for some grandmothers being thrown out of a cinema for refusing their handbags being searched.
If I remember right the cinema closed down some time later. But I can't find the article about it to confirm it. However, the cinema website does not work anymore, so I am rather sure it is the case. I will have a closer look on my next Kaiapoi visit.
Here is this story (The Press from 6 September 2008):
Lizzy B's Cinema in Kaiapoi evicted four women, three of them grandmothers, who refused to allow staff to search their handbags for illicit snacks and drinks.
Grandmothers Gaye McKenzie, Doris Roddis and Jean Sheat, along with McKenzie's daughter, Vicky McKenzie, were seated in the cinema awaiting a screening of Second Hand Wedding last month when an usher asked to search their handbags.
They refused, and cinema manager Steve Brown asked them to leave and refunded their tickets.
Gaye McKenzie said she was dumbfounded by the incident.
"We were most upset about it. We could not believe it. I was annoyed about it and I still am," she said.
"It was done in such a dreadful manner, as if we were criminals. Your bag is your private domain. It is such an insult.
"I do not know any other theatres that do that. We were so dumbfounded."
Roddis was also outraged by being shown the door.
"It was a real intrusion. We thought it was really quite unpleasant. We went out for a lovely evening together and we never even saw the film," she said.
"We still haven't seen it. I think I might wait until it comes out on DVD. It made me feel really cross that someone could demand to look in your bag. You expect security at airports and things like that, but at the pictures when you are relaxing, you do not expect it.
"It is a terrible intrusion."
Brown said the cinema searched bags sporadically to control the consumption of alcohol as part of the requirement of its liquor licence.
"We are fully licensed, so it was quite a challenge to get those licences, and part of our requirement was to be able to control liquor in the cinema itself," he said.
"We do it sporadically because we have had issues recently and we want to make sure it does not increase."
The cinema's website has the terms and conditions for entering the cinema. One condition states: "As a condition of entry it is understood that cinema staff have the right to request that any bag or personal article be submitted for inspection."
Brown was unapologetic about the eviction.
"When you go to a cafe you do not bring your own food.
"We give people their own choice; they do not have to come here," he said.
"We are not a Hoyts or a Reading. We do not have the masses. We are a very upmarket boutique."
Hoyts Riccarton duty manager David Brouwer said bags were sometimes searched for video equipment to deter pirates, but "drinks and food are not something we are really concerned about".
a little History
Favorite thing: 1878....Street lightening was by way of kerosene lamps and it must have been a wonderful sight in an area of almost total darkness to see the Kaiapoi Woollen Mills lit up by 600 light bulbs with the power generated by the mill's Compton Dynamo plant. the Mill closed after 100 years in operation 1978
Many thought this is the demise of the Town, but an energetic Mayor..Norman Kirk, pushed for far sighted development. Water, an abundant supply of high quality artisan water the new enterprise, succesfully exported around the world... and other developments sees Kaiapoi prospor again.
Norman Kirk went on to became NZ Primeminister from 1972-1974, he died prematurely at the age of 51years in 1974.
Today the population is nearing 10 000, their phrase is:
'Just Country enough - not to be City ' that's how we like it
- Historical Travel
The Great War
Favorite thing: the settlement of Kaiapoi counted 50 Maori from the Ngati Toa Tribe, when the first Europeans arrived in 1850
and it was the River which gave early importance to Kaiapoi. the Railway didn't reach the Town until 1872
As many as 70 coastal trading vessels operated to and from the Port of Kaiapoi.
around 3000 People lived permanently here until the Great War 1914-1918
and over hundred Man died in this War.a devastating blow for a small Village like Kaiapoi, imagine ...every Family lost a son, a father, a brother...War is Madness
Peace for all!!
the Memorial was unveiled on ANZAC Day
April 25th 1922
and it reads:
At the going Dawn of the Sun and in the Morning we will remember them.
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