Colin Arthur Rich Interview

Today is the 1st December 2014. This interview is with Colin Rich formerly of Karoola Orchards and Colin will outline his family coming to New Zealand, where they came from and eventually tell us about his life and times. So Colin away you go – the floor is yours.

You ask the questions and I’ll answer.

Where did your folks come from originally, your grandparents?

England. Out to Australia, I don’t know what year it was. They bought a block of dirt and a house in a place called Karoola. That’s how the orchard got its name Karoola from Australia.

So that was in Tasmania?

Yes, in Tasmania it was called Karoola. And he came out to New Zealand.

Did they do anything with that land in Australia?

I think he might have cropped it for a year or two. He didn’t crop it very long in Australia. He wasn’t there very long. Came here and bought the land at Arataki.

He came out. He was a sheepfarmer wasn’t he?

No my grandfather was I don’t know actually what he was. He wasn’t a sheepfarmer.

When you were involved over with the family at Craggy Range…

Then it belonged to Coop … the Douglases rather, and Dad was managing for farmer Gordon Douglas.

So that was your father was managing. Did your grandfather buy Karoola?


I see. So they had Karoola as well as your father was managing for Douglas.

The Rich family had Karoola but Dad had nothing to do with it in those days.

So let’s go back to your father and your growing up at Tukituki.

Dad was on a farm out there for the Coops. He managed a farm out there for the Douglases at Te Mahanga. He was there and my grandfather sold the orchard – when I do not know. He was down south before he came to Hawke’s Bay and bought Karoola, 31 acres and built a house on it.

That was the big homestead on the …?

Mangakuri, yes.

Well just going back to Tukituki, something I wasn’t aware of that there was a school and everything for – you all went to school.

Craggy Range School. Van Asch.

So that was obviously a fairly big station if they had a school over there.

Oh yes. There was Craggy Range station was nearly 5,000 acres. Craggy Range right through the middle of it. That’s how it got its name.

Yes. So what was it like growing up on the farm?

Well, I didn’t grow up on the farm very much. I went to primary school there and then went to Napier Boys’ High for 12 months, and Mum’s father got cancer and he had a dairy farm in Taranaki and I left school and went up there to look after the farm until he died.

So you were a ‘cow cockie’.

Yes I was a ‘cow cockie’.

I never knew that. I didn’t know you went to Napier Boys’ High either, because I went to Napier Boys’ High. So how long were you in Taranaki then?

Two years.

Well you would have been pretty good at milking cows.

Oh yes, all by hand too.

So you went to High School for a year then you went to Taranaki. Did you come back to the orchard Karoola.

Dad rang and wanted to know what I was doing, whether I was staying in Taranaki or coming back because he wanted someone for the orchard. I was 16 I suppose at the time. And I said to him “well what do I do?” so I came back here. Murray was away at Smedley Station, my eldest brother, and he went shepherding and I went on the orchard for Dad. Dad was on the farm over the river and I came on to the orchard.

So you spent from 16 years old on the orchard until you retired – until you sold the orchard.

Yes, I was there for a long time.

I don’t know whether it was during your time but there was a research orchard that used to run the length of Arataki Road adjacent to your orchard. Do you remember that?

I remember a research business but that’s all I remember about it.

Yes, because it must have been right at the early stage of you coming to the orchard. So on the orchard, what did you have mainly, what varieties of apples, pears, peaches?

The main variety of fruit was peaches, plums, apples and pears and nectarines. The main variety would have been peaches I think.

In those days you would have needed irrigation up there because you were on the red metal.

We had no irrigation when we went there and we built a dam to take the surface water to come down Arataki or from Tukituki down there. And I don’t know when we put the plug in for the orchard for the irrigation. But all I know, we rang up this bloke… I think the bloke that did that job was the agent selling oil for [?] He came round and said he was a water diviner. He did that and he said “there it is there” and he paced off. And we put a peg in there and left it for 12 months and then drilled a hole in there and got the water.

Did you really? A good well.

A six inch well went in and we had tons of water. It wasn’t flowing, it wasn’t … I don’t know what you call it …

It wasn’t artesian. You had to pump it.

We had to pump it up. It was about 100 metres down.

I didn’t realise you got water up there.

Neither did we. And the funny part about the whole thing was the fact that the bloke that told us to do it was an oil traveller.

I always remember, you remember Cliff Jefferies – Milly his wife, she was a very good water diviner and I used to rubbish her but one day she said come here and she put her hands round mine and walked and she said “can you feel that?” I said yes. She said “can you hold that?” – she used wire… she said “grip it harder, you’ve got more power than I’ve got” so I found that I could find … and I had to eat my words. But anyway, how did you irrigate the orchard those days?

We built the dam and put the pump on the concrete in the corner and put a pump in there and pumped from there for irrigation.

And what – flooded or sprinklers or …

No, sprinklers.

All sprinklers. Because that would have been fairly early.

I can’t think when it was. I can visualise it happening but I can’t … It was after the war I know that.

After the war, that was in the 40s. You didn’t go overseas did you?


Where did you go?

I went to Japan.

I didn’t realise that.

I had 12 months in Japan or a bit longer.

And were you called up or did you …

No, I volunteered. Murray, the eldest brother he was in the Air Force. He came out of the Air Force and wanted a job. He went out to Coops’ farm and I was in the orchard. And he got sick of Coops – I don’t know what it was. Anyway he came back to the orchard and I said to Dad I was going to go into the Army for a trip. He said ‘go for your life”. There were about ten of us all in together, all mates together, we all volunteered. The old man, I forget his name, the old head man at that time. We said to him we all go or none of us go so he took us down to Wellington, this joker.

And then you came obviously came back to the orchard.

I came back and stabilised the orchard yes.

Well those days the other thing was the spraying of your trees. How was that done at the start? Did you have it piped under the orchard or did you…

No we didn’t. We had a big truck with a 300 gallon tank with water in the back of it and we used to stand on the back, we built a deck on the back of it and one on the front. There was a man on the front and one on the back and you sprayed this side and he sprayed that side. We had that for many years – a long time we had that old irrigation plant.

I remember you had it parked down at the back of Thompson Road, the old sprayer, didn’t you? Down where the old pig sties used to be at the back of the place. Most of the people in Thompson Road area they had the stuff under the ground and they used to see them out there in oil skins and sou’westers. So then once you moved from that spray you would have had a blast spray or something like that.

We had a three man sprayer, one driving and two spraying in the back and we had that for not a great many years and then we put a motor on the back of it.

Now with your fruit did you pack it all and did you mark it with stone fruit or did you grow it for the canneries?

We grew for the canneries as well. William Pears with canneries and the rest of it was going to the Apple & Pear Board.

Peaches and plums they would have all gone to the markets would they? Makes you think of some of the old names, Learys and T & G. You used to stamp the end of the little boxes. In those days you used to have to make all your own wooden boxes too didn’t you? With the hammer.

With the hammer yes. You got pretty good in the finish. You could make them pretty quick.

So your packing shed. What sort of a grader did you have in your packing shed in those days? A Benseman, a Knox?

Yes, a Benseman. They were the commonest ones made. Nobody else made them at all.

Yes I know the Jefferies had one that had tin cups on it and it was forever getting out of tune, and God this thing …. because Cliff would never swear but he used to think it.

They were good graders but you had to be careful with them because you’d alter them very quick.

That’s right. And so you saw a lot of changes over the years especially with pruning particularly from the multi leader to the single leader and you were all experts at spur pruning and of course thinning. All your thinning was done by hand wasn’t it. You didn’t have sprays to thin.

No, we never sprayed for thinning. Always by hand. When we came to thinning well we had 12-14 of staff anytime.

Someone would say you’re taking too many off and someone would say you’re not taking…

That’s right. A lot of people had no idea. David’s wife was one. She was a Pom and she was absolutely hopeless. I don’t know why.

Yes probably thought if you take all the fruit off there’d be none left. When a tree looks as if it’s over thinned it’s about right.

That was what was wrong with her. She could see it see it lying on the ground, [?] you know.

Yes, so when you sold the orchard … ’cause you moved down to Thompson Road and you grew some crops and some sheep.

Yes well I sold out to David and he carried on and I went to Thompson Road. I bought a block of land – I’d forgotten all about that. After that I went and joined the mushroom farm.

Yes with your little tool kit on the back. See it’s interesting there. They are going to have an in house dairy farm aren’t they?

I’m going to have a look at it one of these days. I will be interested to see it.

So would I. I believe they’re building it at the moment or doing something with it.

I said the other day about it to someone, and he said there’s three cows that they even milk now. The cows go in when they feel like it. Just walk in. They must have somebody on call the whole time mustn’t they?

Well the way they do it – it’s all computerised and the cows can come in three times in a day. They’re enticed to come in by feed. Now if they have had too much – already had their feed they can’t get in. It won’t let them in. It’s all controlled but there’s one person who has to manage that computer all the time because if something goes wrong all hell would bust loose. It’s in a pretty big way in Southland – there’s a thousand cows/herds being milked automatically. It’s going to be interesting to see. I would imagine he will probably sell the milk and have it as an exhibition. People can pay to go and have a look because I think he may have leased some of Bob Wilson’s land already to grow lucerne on to start stockpiling some feed.

Well they’ll have to won’t they. They will have to get it from somewhere.

I still can’t see ,Colin, how it would be economic carting all the feed in, carting all the manure out.

I see they have got to spend at least 8 hours a day feeding themselves.

The other thing I can’t see. They are going to graze the cows outside some of the time. The old Satherley farm was never known for growing much in the summer time was it.

It wasn’t either that’s right.

We were just talking about the mushroom farm, Glenis and the inhouse dairy farm. It’s all changing isn’t it.

Glenis: How is it going to work out do you think.

I guess it depends. Everything has to have a certain size to make it work. The capital needed to set the thing up because you’ve still got to have to pay someone to harvest, you’ve got to store it, you’ve got to feed it with automatic feeders, you’ve got to cart the dung out, you’ve got to spread it somewhere and they get rid of labour but there are other problems. Cows get very lame standing in a barn and although they’ve got cushions now for them to sleep on during the day, big soft cushions. Because they get a lot more milk. They get I think a third more milk than ordinary cows but they need those big Canadian Holsteins, they’re the ones that are big barn producers.

So anyway we see all these things happen, we see the strawberries. We see the …

I’m going to go across one day when I come right – I’ll go across and have a look at it.

Have you seen what they’ve done to the old quarry? You haven’t been up there for some time?

No I haven’t been up there for a couple of years now.

I can’t believe it. The quarry was always rough with stumps and everything. Right up to where they do the compost is all levelled, it’s all beautiful and cars parked down the drive now. You can see the composter from Te Mata Road/Brookvale Road and they can start to smell it from the new subdivision too.

Glenis: There’ll be more complaints about that.

Well see they’ve already got … I think Chris has sold the block round his house. That’s going into houses so it will be right to the edge of the …

Has Chris sold it?

He’s just sold the land I think right up to Hunters I think. All the land there will eventually be houses. There’s nothing left now.

Yes, well you see up from Phil’s old house up there that was all up for subdivision there and then and there were people on it then all wanting to sell it.

The Berry piece I see that’s all just come on the market. That’s the last of that corner, and where your houses used to be that’s all absorbed now. Who would have thought that that was …

Glenis: Our old house looks a bit out of fashion.

You wonder what Russell Robertson would say if he came back and saw it. We were looking the other day – of all the names in that road that have all gone – I still see Rob Bensemann but all the rest, I think most of the Moore’s have gone. The Raisins [?] have all gone, Groobys. But anyway it’s quite interesting to just hear things that have happened.

A while back we had someone come in here one day, I don’t know who it was, and we started talking about Arataki and they knew all about it – I could’ve sat there for days listening to them. We were there for many years in Arataki Road. But what gets me is the fact the cows, when they want to get milked, they go and get milked on their own.

There is a man sitting there somewhere watching the computer. He’s probably got cameras on the cows and the whole thing is controlled by the feed when the cow gets hungry she’ll come but they have these tags that monitor them. If the cow has come in and eaten half her allowed ration the computer will save that other half till she comes next time. The whole thing, you wouldn’t believe how it all works. The cow can’t go and get milked four times, the machine will block her, because the tag on her that’s linked to the computer says no she can’t go in another time, and she can go three times during the day and not at all during the night. But they can’t eat more than their allowed ration and that’s controlled by the gate and the incentive to get milked is the food but if she’s had her food for the day she can’t get milked.

Glenis: It’s not natural.

Well nothing’s natural any longer. It’s all automated. I see these people with these big tractors now and these GPS’s. When they sow stuff, even rye grass, it’s so straight. There’s no bends. No longer does the man have to actually think. I used to have to think when I was marking out lands for ploughing, putting in the strikes and that. I’d think I hope I can get some good straight runs here because it’s a roadside paddock and all the people coming along and see this crooked ploughing. You know you’d sight up and away you’d go and then all the beautiful work, you’d roll it and disc it and it wouldn’t matter what it was like. You grew some crops across the road from Thompson Road didn’t you? Did you grow peas?

Yes I cropped peas. Yes I cropped Thompson Road, 50 years.

Glenis: Pumpkins and potatoes.

And now you go down there and it’s all orchard.

Yes, well I haven’t been past there for a long time. It must be 12 months or more. I must go one day and have a look.

Everywhere you go it’s changed Colin.

Get the scooty car out and away we go for the day.

So you’ve got a scooter have you?

Glenis: I don’t know about that. You’d better wait until your son-in-law comes and he’ll take you for a drive.

So what about your family. What are they all doing at the moment?

Glenis: Well we’ve got our eldest daughter Wendy. She lives in Goddard Lane. Very handy. She’s our rock, Frank. She’s got a daughter Madison. She’s at Auckland Uni. Home on holiday here at the moment. Doing something in the medical line, I’m not quite sure what. Quite keen on pharmaceutical I think. Time will tell. Next year will be her third year. So that’s Wendy. Vivienne our middle daughter, she’s in Tauranga. She’s married got two children. Our eldest granddaughter, her daughter, she’s in the Police Force in Whakatane and she’s loving it.

One of my boys is in the Police. He was in Wellington then Invercargill now he’s in Kalgoorlie. He’s been in Kalgoorlie for 4 years in the middle of Western Australia. It’s a mining town and it comes with all the things that mining towns have. So you’ve got a Police girl there. Is that the lot is it.

Glenis: They’ve got two children as I say.

A son. Luke.

Glenis: Luke yes. He’s doing a bit of bar managing, at the moment between jobs. Our youngest daughter Andrea, she died at 45. She left a daughter – she was a solo Mum – a daughter of 9, and so Wendy is her legal guardian.

Andrea, was she in Toop Street. Did she die at Toop Street? Oh that’s sad. I hadn’t heard that.

Glenis: Eight years ago.

So how old is the little girl?

Glenis: She’s 17.

Oh, she’s not a little girl any longer.

She’s finished school. She was not interested in school so she did what they call used to be work experience now it’s called gateway I think at … Redwood, and they have offered her a job there. So she’s taken out a casual contract there. So hopefully that will work out for her. Plus she’s got a little job here at Mary Doyle at night between 4 and 8.

Early childhood education is a forerunner at the moment. There’s so many people that are working in it and it is so important.

Glenis: She’s always been very good with children even at a young age. Hopefully that is what she will want to do. Time will tell.

And so now Colin and Glenis you’re sitting here in Mary Doyle taking it easy for the days that you did work very hard and it’s very restful here. You wouldn’t know that there’s anyone else around would you.

No it’s spot on. Been here 7 years and it’ll do me.

Okay well I think that’s pretty well given us a broad brush of where you’ve

Been and gone.

Yes. But I didn’t realise you’ve been… so if you were up there from 1945 when you came back from Japan… no from 16 I mean. You came to the orchard when you were 16?

About that yes.

Until you retired from or sold the orchard which must have been in the 90s, 80s?

Glenis: Well you were out of it then. David sold their orchard in …

I’ll take that if I can and photocopy it and it will be added information.

Glenis: It’s in here anyway when David sold the orchard. He had it quite a few years after we left didn’t he? You forget the years.

Well time, 10 years slips by.

Oh doesn’t it ever?

Lovely, thank you.

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Interviewer: Frank Cooper

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