Newspaper Article 1977 – Company parentage of freezing works



A point to be verified if you are a motorist these days using Pakowhai Road is that diversification in Hawke’s Bay’s freezing works industry might make that experience less of a trial.

One does not imagine that anything much on these lines has been aired at the sittings of the Meat Industry Authority, preoccupied with examination of the case for building freezing works at Takapau and Oringi.

Even so those sheep crates and other heavy articulated vehicles do leave their mark.

Spreading the Hawke’s Bay kill would lighten the load the approach roads to the freezing works carry.

Currently the stretch of seal fronting on to Frimley is in a mess.

It wouldn’t do any harm to invite the Minister of Transport to Hawke’s Bay some time soon. However feeble the pretext might be for inviting Mr McLachlan here, the outcome could not help being educational.

And talking about the authority, it is noted that last week’s publicity defined the parentage of the Tomoana freezing works as W. and R. Fletcher.

This is not quite in accord with a statement attributed to the New Zealand assistant general manager of the company, Mr P. M. Johnston, a man with a long record of service with the firm in Australia.

“W. and R. Fletcher,” he told the authority, “are meat exporters owned by what is best described as the Vestey Group of the United Kingdom which entered the New Zealand trade in 1911.”

The excerpt from which I quote does not give any indication of why a statement like this should be made, for it can be taken as read that the authority was well aware of the real background to the company.


W. and R. Fletcher are a registered company with extensive operations in Britain and Australia, but they are not the real parent company, as Mr Johnston has pointed out.

They are a parent company with a parent company.

Parentage in company affairs is like a maze. One can easily get lost, and the relevancy here is unimportant except that it is not often that one sees in print a statement establishing the link between the Hastings freezing works known as Tomoana and the Vesteys cartel.

Tomoana is distinct in this respect. Whereas one is in the habit of openly referring to, say, Borthwicks owning Waingawa, near Masterton, Swifts owning the works at Wairoa, Canterbury Meat owning Belfast, any reference to Tomoana at formal level has to be circumspect.

Indeed, as a reporter for many years attending official functions at the works, I have never heard the name Vestey used at the top table.

The set-up of parent companies is a matter that concerns many people, but it seems only a few know the real answers as to who owns whom or what. But does it really matter?

It may not be politic to advertise one’s identity as an operating company, but so many subsidiaries are themselves subsidiaries that it matters little if one is not definitive.

It is refreshing, even so, when it does happen in the case of Mr Johnston, quoted above.

W. and R. Fletcher operate in a big way in Britain and Australia, according to a Hastings meat exporter.


He just laughed when I asked him why was it not proper and correct to say that the Tomoana works were linked with the big meat cartel, Vesteys.

“It’s strange you should be asking me this,” he commented, “for I am at this moment dealing with two sets of invoices relating to a meat shipment. “One relates to the killing that was done at Tomoana under the name of Nelsons (NZ) Ltd, while the other is to do with the exporting of the meat through W. and R. Fletcher Ltd.”

Nelsons, he explained, is the name given the slaughter house and W. and R. Fletcher the name given the exporting firm.

“We all know, however, Vesteys are the owners,” my informant said.

And quite firmly of that opinion is a grand-daughter of the late Mr William Nelson, Mrs H. P. Horne, of Hardinge Road, Napier.

“Vesteys took over N.B.L. (Nelson Bros Ltd) in 1920 was her cryptic remark.

Tomoana (and most of the Nelsons give the Maori rendering which is something quite distinct) is a memorial to pathfinders in the meat industry. It is good that in the telephone directory the listing is not W. and R. Fletcher but Nelsons (NZ) Ltd.

Whatever the ramifications at the back of it all may be, it is appropriate that the name of Nelson should remain.

Nelson Bros Limited, the NBL Mrs Horne speaks of, owned and operated freezing works at Tomoana, Waipukurau and Woodville. The Paki Paki works, damaged beyond practical repair in the 1931 earthquake belonged to Borthwicks.

According to Mrs Horne, her father, the late Mr W. H. Nelson, killed the first sheep that came forward for slaughter at each of the three works. Presumably Mr Nelson killed and dressed the sheep, for these were the days of solo butchers.

A publication in her possession establishes that the Woodville works, under the management of Mrs Horne’s father, had a killing capacity of 400 sheep a day and storage for 12,000 carcases. Employment was found for 50 to 60 men.

The works were operated successfully until 1897, when reduced railway freights made it practical to send sheep to Tomoana.

Honours to HB breeders

The national Angus bull sale in Palmerston North this week produced a top price of $12,000 paid for Trojan 422 of Rangatira bred by the well known Hawke’s Bay stud, Lopdell Bros, Napier.

A total of 75 bulls sold for an average of $2404, which was well above the previous record of $2208 set at the 1974 national sale. Last year’s average was a disappointing $1956.

The most active buyers at the sale were Sisam and Son from Whakatane, who took home eight bulls at a total cost $10,800.

There was Australian interest in the sale for two bulls were bought for export.

Gibley Proprietories Ltd bought Ranui 789 for $3000, and Mr Lou Schmidt, of Western Australia, went to $4500 to secure Supreme 320 of Matauri from his breeder, Mr Bruce Maxwell, Kaeo.

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Newspaper article

Date published

23 July 1977

Creator / Author

  • Holmes Miller


The Daily Telegraph


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


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