ROGER MORONEY recalls Westshore’s works.
Slaughterhouse on the shoreline
Now it is a smart seaside neighbourhood on a jutting outcrop of inner harbourside land at Westshore which some still call the Western Spit.
Then, it was a slaughterhouse (not to put too fine a point on it) which in its early 20th century heyday saw up to 1200 carcases processed a day.
The only evidence that industry and stevedoring thrived on the western side of the inner harbour is a clump of heavy timber piles and bearers – evidence of where the quayside, where lighters tied up to load the meat, once stood.
The North British and Hawke’s Bay Freezing Works was built in 1887. In the years before that frozen meat had been processed at Nelson Brothers’ Tomoana works but local farmers, keen to encourage competition to keep down costs, tied up with a group of British investors to finance the building of the new freezing company.
The site was leased from the Napier Harbour Board and was ideal in that it sat beside the Western Spit quay.
In old photographs, lighters can be seen tied up at the old quayside, and in the distance juts the western end of Napier Hill.
Lighters could tie up just metres from the works so loading was a breeze – out the door, down the great wooden-sided shute and onto the deck.
The lighters then transported the cargoes out to the big steamships anchored in the stream.
The works eventually closed (perhaps fortuitously given what was about to happen a year later) in 1930.
Before the 1931 earthquake, Westshore Beach, particularly at the Western Spit end, was described by one writer as “a dangerous shingle bank” but thew [the] great upheaval changed all that.
It became a more placid and sand-covered stretch, and the seaside suburb became an increasingly desirable place.
Today, especially around the Whakarire Avenue area, which overlooks the Scarpa Flow entranceway to the inner harbour, houses, shrubs and trees have taken the place of rail tracks, rocks and of course the once-great slaughtering and freezing factory.
Photo captions –
Then . . .
. . . and now