Newspaper Article 1940 – Sheep-Raising Laid the Foundation


Sheep-Raising Laid the Foundation


Year by year time takes toll of the pioneers who round about 80 years ago staked their fortune on their faith in Hawke’s Bay as a pastoral province. Many of these early settlers were blessed with a foresight that rightly led them to appreciate the potentialities of the land that was to provide them their homes and their livelihood. Chiefly it was realised that Hawke’s Bay lent itself naturally to the requirements of sheep raising and to-day the major wealth of the province comes from this source. Few remain who can tell us of the men of those early days and the obstacles they had to face for obstacles they were, big enough to break the hearts and purses of many men who started out with high hopes.

One of the earliest and best-known sheep farming areas in the sixties was “Kereru”” Station, then the property of Mr. J. N. Williams. The sheep of those days were, of course, all Merinos, and it is doubtful whether their wool clip – the only value they then had – would have justified any farmer giving them paddock-room to-day. At the first shearing at “Keraru,” [Kereru] the sheep clipped anything from an ounce up to 5lbs. of wool, many having lost the bulk of their fleece in the fern and scrub which covered the land over which they grazed. Shipped Home this wool realised 5d per lb. in London, 2d per lb. being absorbed in freight. Despite this small margin, Mr. William Nelson and his brother, under the firm name of F. and W. Nelson, purchased a holding at Kereru from the late Mr. Powdrell, and for some time farmed this with varying success.

At this time the land in that district was chiefly held by Mr. J. N. Williams, Mr. Duff, Major Carlyon at Gwavas, while Colonel Herrick managed a property at Kereru for a Mr. Lyons, of Wellington. Sir Donald McLean held a wide area at Maraekakaho, of 60,000 acres, while Mr. H. W. P. Smith’s property “Aorangi,” later known as “Olrig” Station, was also many times its present size, being about 30,000 acres. Other early settlers in the country west of Hastings were, Mr. Cartwright Brown, at Matapiro – later owned by Mr. W. Shrimpton – Mr. Lowry, father of Mr. T. H. Lowry, Okawa; the late Hon. J. D. Ormond. and Mr. G. P. Donnelly.

From Keraru, Nelson brothers moved to the Waipukurau district, where they purchased “Arlington” Station from Captain Newman. The chief runholders of the district at that time were Mr. Harding, of Mt. Vernon, grandfather of “Lord” Henry Russell, and his brother Purvis Russell, who each owned about 30,000 acres bordering on the Hatuma Lake; Mr D. Gollan, who owned “Mangatarata” adjoining Mr. Henry Russell’s property, “Mount Herbert”; Mr. Thos. Tanner, who owned “The Brow” Station; and Mr. Robert Stokes, who held Milburn, between Te Aute and “The Brow.”

One of The Very Earliest Settlers.

The late Archdeacon Sam Williams was one of the very earliest of the Hawke’s Bay settlers to introduce sheep to the country. Prior to Mr. Williams taking up Te Aute, the huge area which it then contained had been leased at a total rental of £10 per annum, but the settler, being unable to make it pay, surrendered it, and it remained for Archdeacon Williams to prove it to be one of the most valuable tracts of sheep and cattle country in the province. Archdeacon Sam Williams commenced farming the land with cattle, but later drifted into grazing sheep, being a strong supporter of the English Leicester breed, which Messrs. Nelson Brothers first introduced into Hawke’s Bay.

Out on the coast, Mr Chas. Nairn, at Pourerere, was one of the earliest landholders, having a [a] very considerable area of about 50,000 acres, part of which was later sold to Messrs. Coleman and McHardy, father of Messrs Percy and L. H. McHardy, purchased Mr. Coleman’s interest and this land has been farmed by the McHardy family ever since.

On the Ruataniwha plains, Colonel Lambert had a big holding, while Mr Sidney Johnston managed “Oruawharo” Station and later purchased it from Mr. John Johnston, of Wellington. At Porangahau, Mr. J. Davis Canning owned the “Oakbourne” Station, and further south, in the Dannevirke district, Mr. G. D. Hamilton was one of the earliest settlers who owned 30,000 or more acres., which included the well-known Mangatoro valley.

Longwools Introduced in Hawke’s Bay.

Messrs. Nelson Brothers next acquired a considerable area of the rich land in the Mangateretere district, and it was about this time that they established a Lincoln flock, as their Leicesters had met with such a widespread and keen demand, and the farming community were crying out for bigger sheep with stronger wool. The Leicesters previously referred to were the first longwool sheep to be bred to any extent in Hawke’s Bay, and this original flock was maintained for many years, its quality being illustrated by the fact that even over half a century ago Mr. John Roberts bought 1000 ewes from the flock in one line at the then excellent price of £2 per head.

It was found that Lincoln sheep throve exceedingly well on the rich pastures of Hawke’s Bay round Hastings, and the demand for rams of this breed became so great that in February, 1874, the Havelock Ram Fair was held, when 45 rams, ranging in age from ram lambs to 6-tooth rams, sold at the remarkable average price of £22 1/6. The highest price received for a ram lamb was £45, while numerous lambs sold at [£] £30 and over. This sale, which was probably the first Ram Fair held in Hawke’s Bay, was conducted by Messrs. Routledge, Kennedy and Co., auctioneers, of Napier,

The first Hawke’s Bay Show was held in a paddock at Havelock North in the year 1863, but it then lapsed for some years and was next held at Mangateretere. At this time Messrs. Price and St Hill owned Tuki Tuki Station, which, like most other sheep stations of those days, covered ten times or more the area that they do now. Mr. Burgess owned Waimarama Station, and Mr. John Chambers, senr., father of Messrs. John, Mason and Bernard Chambers, owned the area extending from Havelock North to the Maraetotara Stream which now contains several sizeable sheep runs.

Captain Gordon, father of Messrs. Frank and Charles Gordon, was then settled at Clifton Station, and some of the prices realised for his stock during the early years give some indication of the difficulties settlers had to face before the meat-freezing industry was established, providing an outlet for surplus stock. The year 1887 records 2719 Merino ewes boiled down, the expenses of “cooking” exceeding the returns by 9d per head. The same year 540 ewes were killed on the station to get rid of them, and 600 fat Merino wethers were sold at 4/- each. The following year showed 678 ewes sold at 1/- each, and 2000 killed on the station, while fat bullocks realised £4 per head. From then on prices began slowly to improve, three, four and even five shillings being realised for Merino ewes, and 6/- and 7/- for longwool crosses. When the wool from these longwool sheep reached England it realised in those days from 5d to 8d per pound and as the longwools clipped much heavier fleeces than the Merino, it is not difficult to understand why they so rapidly became popular.

Birth of the Tomoana Works.

In 1880 Mr. Nelson established the meat preserving and boiling-down works at Tomoana, which was the preceder of the present huge freezing works now known as Nelson (NZ) Ltd, but it was not until 1884 that the first frozen mutton was exported from Hawke’s Bay. In the inttrvening [intervening] years refrigeration had been developed, and the ship Dunedin had successfully carried to England a cargo of mutton which was frozen on board at Port Chalmers and proved a very profitable venture to the shippers. Mr. Nelson saw the huge possibilities of the frozen meat trade and applied all his energies to establishing the business of freezing from the Bluff to Hawke’s Bay.

In 1884 the ships Turakina, Northumberland and s.s. Bombay and s.s. Coptic took 41,105 carcases of mutton and 1044 legs of mutton from Hawke’s Bay. A small beginning to a huge venture, but next year these ships and others, Arawa, Ionic, Lady Jocelyn, Opawa, Doric, Tainui and Mataura took 82,443 carcases of mutton, 2408 carcases of lamb and sundry “legs” and “halves.” From 1884 to 1886 all………. [rest of article missing]

Photo captions –

Mr William Nelson, founder of the Freezing Industry in Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Thomas Tanner, one of the earliest settlers of the Heretaunga Plains.

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Newspaper article

Date published

9 March 1940


The Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today

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