Weddel’s World 1979 – October

Weddel’s World

KAITI – in conjunction with Gisborne Sheepfarmers Freezing Co. Ltd.



Patea upgrading underway

Work is well underway on a major rebuilding operation at the Patea Freezing Company works to be completed over the next three years at a cost of more than $7 million.

The major improvements centre on the mutton slaughter operation and were signalled some two years ago with the construction of a new sheepyard area for a potential kill capacity of some 30,000 lambs each week.

The second stage of the operation includes the construction of a new single storey amenities block covering 1250 square metres providing lockers, showers, changing rooms and dining facilities for a capacity of 365 people from the edible processing departments. Although at present no women are employed on the Patea chain or meat processing department, provision has been made in the design of this $½ m project for the introduction of facilities for women in the future.

Existing amenities will be upgraded for other departments in the Patea work force, which reaches a peak of about 750 at the height of the season, and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries personnel.

The works’ new laboratory block, which was opened earlier this year by the Mayor of Patea, Mr Gordon Hughson, has introduced a new sophistication to the quality assurance testing and monitoring carried out at Patea

The laboratory contains the latest forms of equipment in its chemical and bacteriorlogical [bacteriological] units staffed by six people. The chemistry laboratory monitors the specifications of meat and bonemeals production for fat contents and other testing programmes and also monitors tallow production, and maintains a constant check on the effluent disposal from the plant to ensure that it falls within the regulatory fat levels.

The bacteriorlogy [bacteriology] laboratory maintains a constant check of the hygiene standards of all production from the plant and the effectiveness of the cleaning of all tools and equipment by taking swabs from the various production areas for analysis.

The lamb cutting department has also been completely upgraded with walls and ceilings being fibreglassed, the floor areas laid with sureshield and all equipment replaced with stainless steel units to meet the current and foreseeable hygiene requirements. At present Patea is producing lamb cuts for European markets but although it has a licence to export to North America will not be able to enter that market until 1981 when the ageing and conditioning process is incorporated in the new chains planned for the works.

This department has also had a new air conditioning unit installed to maintain a steady production temperature of 10°C to meet another European requirement.

All the installation work in this unit, and in many other areas of the Patea reconstruction programme, has been carried out by the works own maintenance department. The casings department has been resited on the site of the former works store and old lamb cutting amenity at a cost of $300,000. As a result the store has been centralised with the purchasing department and the new combined

(Continued Page 2)

Photo captions –

Bacteriologist John Simpson analysing the bacteria content from samples of boneless beef production as part of the Patea work quality assurance programme.

Patea maintenance staff Ray McAliede and Bruce Robertson working on the installation of a conveyor belt in the new lamb cutting room.

Contractors fibreglassing the walls of the new casing block.

(Patea cont’d.)

unit is operating from the site of the former stockfoods factory.

Part of the improvements to better working conditions on the mutton slaughterhouse floor is the installation of a new cooling system to maintain a consistently comfortable year round temperature in the chain area.

Work is also about to start on a new offal department which will be completed for the 1980/81 season. The offal department which is presently situated on two levels will be centralised in one area.

Other upgrading programmes include improvements to the access corridors to the beef chillers and to the cooling floor in the area.

The first stages of the upgrading of the mutton chains has been completed with the complete fibreglassing of the area, the lining of the ceilings, installation of new detain rails and new sticking facilities.

The next stage will include the laying of new flooring and drainage systems and the introduction of accelerated conditioning facilities and a new set of offices for the clerks and foremen and adjoining amenities.

Other projects being planned include a new carton freezing building which will handle processed beef, mutton and offals, new carton storage and branding areas, and the complete upgrading of the stockyards amenities building.


The general manager of the Patea Freezing Company, Alan Parker, joined the Vestey organisation in 1960 in the general accounts section in the group’s head office in London and has since had broad experience in all facets of the meat processing industry. After working with the group’s wholesale grocery outlet in Britain and British Beef, the company which operates abbatoirs and local trade meat sales in the UK Mr Parker transferred to Australia in 1964 as a trainee at the Riverstone works.

He worked as boning room foreman in Darwin, production manager in Townsville and in the costing and production department of W. Angliss’ head office in Sydney before returning to London as liaison between the head office and Australia and New Zealand and marketing in North America.

Mr Parker returned to the Angliss production department in Sydney in 1969 and was successively manager of the works at Tenterfield and Darwin before moving to the Westfield Freezing Company in Auckland as works manager in 1974. In 1977 he moved to W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd’s head office in Wellington working with the engineers department on the works upgrading programmes for a year before taking up his present post.

“My moves within the industry and the opportunities resulting from them have enabled me to see a fair bit of the meat trade,” Mr Parker says.

In his leisure time he plays squash, enjoys reading and has just taken up golf. He is also an easily identifiable figure in his running gear pounding up the Patea roads and around the works during his lunch hours.


W & R Fletcher (N.Z.) Ltd have achieved another valuable break-through in sales to the Middle East with the securing of a large lamb export order to Iraq at the highest ever prices paid for New Zealand lamb.

The order for 6,600 tonnes of lamb to be supplied over a three-month period was negotiated in conjunction with Fletcher’s sister company in Australia, William Angliss, who are supplying beef to make up the joint order.

The Iraqis will pay $2050 a tonne C & F for the lamb, which Fletcher’s general manager, Mr Peter Johnston says is the best nett return a New Zealand exporter has got for lamb.

“We are obviously very pleased with the contract, as l am sure the whole farming community will be,” Mr Johnston said.

“The order is a good indicator for future sales to the Middle East and will, as the lamb is going to a Muslim country, help us in our negotiations with Iran in the future.”

Iran has placed stringent demands on New Zealand exporters in protracted negotiations over the past year.

Mr Johnston said the deal would also have a beneficial aspect for the lamb trade with Britain.

“Securing such an order at the beginning of a new season could help relieve the pressure on the volume of exports to Britain, where currently there is a stockpile of lamb, and assist in higher overall prices as exporters will not be placed under storage problems and have to move their stock at lower rates to make way for the new season’s kill.

“More similar business is required and the effect of the decision on imports of lamb into France have still to appear, but certainly it is a good start,” Mr Johnston said.

The Iraqi order is for shipment between December and May and in the first quarter of next year Fletcher sales management expect to resume negotiations with Iraqi officials for a further order.

Mr Johnston said Angliss’ cooperation had been a valuable asset to the sale as New Zealand neither had the stocks of beef nor would want to compete with the lower Australian prices.

The deal represents the second large sale of lamb to Iraq in a year. Earlier this year Fletcher supplied 11,000 tonnes of lamb for supply over a six-month period, also in conjunction with William Angliss for beef stocks.

He said the continuity of contracts now placed Iraq as a regular major buyer of New Zealand lamb.

Mr Johnston said that Fletcher’s had received the co-operation of other processing companies to ensure that the valuable order will be spread evenly throughout New Zealand.

These included producer cooperatives such as P.M.L, P.P.C.S, Thomas Borthwick and Sons and AFFCO and other companies such as Alliance and Waitaki/NZR.

Wool Warning Sounded

The current boom in wool-prices is predicted in the last issue of Weddel’s World, has given a valuable boost to the industry and to the country’s foreign exchange earnings but according to W & R Fletcher’s wool department manager, Alan Chapman, a warning should be sounded for the future.

Mr Chapman forecasts that the present high prices should continue to about the end of this year with the first quarter of 1980 seeing a likely downturn as supply exceeds demand.

Mr Chapman says the present boom is the result of a number of factors, chief of which is the shortage of fibre in the pipeline as a result of the New Zealand and Australian Wool Boards drastically running down the stocks they bought during their market support programmes in the past 18 months. At present both hold only minimal stocks.

In addition, Mr Chapman says that there is also a certain amount of speculation in the current buying programme as a result of the weakening of the US dollar, with investors buying metals and other base commodities instead of holding fluctuating currencies.

However, the market information from the Western Hemisphere points to a downturn in consumer demand and mill activity which must affect the price of wool mid-term.

But what may offset this downturn to a degree is the unknown buying strength of the Eastern Block countries headed by Russia and of China.

Both have already entered strongly into the New Zealand market at early season sales and have been basically responsible for the increase in prices.

Mr Chapman says that as very few details of their increase in manufacturing programmes of wool needs are known, or are likely to be known, they remain very much the unknown factor.

“If they haven’t yet satisfied their demand and continue in the market this will keep prices propped despite the flagging economy in the West,” Mr Chapman said.

“But it is a reasonable assumption that prices will fall early next year and historically such a downturn normally lasts for 12 to 18 months.

“l think the best advice farmers holding stock can have is to take advantage of the current boom period,” Mr Chapman said.


Mr John Prendergast, who has been appointed W & R Fletcher’s group finance manager based in the Wellington head office. Mr Prendergast was previously general manager of Cemac Holdings, and had also been associated for a number of years with the construction firm, Wilkins and Davies, in a number of capacities including administration manager of the Manapouri power Scheme (Stage 2). Mr Prendergast completed his professional accountancy qualifications (A. C. A.) at Otago University and later completed the postgraduate qualifications in Cost and Management (C. M. A.)

Fierce Fire Hits Tomoana

Within twenty-five minutes of the alarm being given, the disastrous fire which swept through Tomoana Freezing Works on Monday 17th September 1979, had completely engulfed the top floor area in the old slaughterhouse. To onlookers, the windows on the top floor showed a sea of flame from end to end of the building and a huge pall of dense, black smoke rose high above it.

Starting in the freezer passage near the mutton lowerator, the fire swept north along the passage to the carton elevator. The main thrust of the fire then roared up this elevator and fanned by a through draft, quickly spread over the entire length of the top floor.

The mutton lowerator, which connects the cooling floor to the freezer block, also provided a channel for the spread of the fire, but here the thrust was less intense.

Fed by the carcases hanging on rails on the cooling floor, the rapidity of the fire’s spread was almost unbelievable and destroyed in its path were the boning and carton rooms, the whole mutton slaughterfloor area, beef house and maintenance dug outs, as well as the upper portions of the outside life well, freezer office and Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries offices and amenities. Severe damage was also done to a large portion of the roof in the old 1890 freezer block.

The Tomoana firemen were fully committed throughout the course of the blaze. Within three minutes of the alarm being sounded by Junior Huhu, a freezer hand, the first of them were in action and had hoses playing on the fire.

As outside appliances arrived and attacked the fire, some members of the Tomoana Brigade also took up station with them and used their local knowledge of the building layout to lead them to strategic positions. For many of them, it was their first large fire and it was a frightening experience, but they did a tremendous job.

Their haggard, soot-grimed faces after long, weary hours of fire fighting bore mute testimony to the herculean task which they had performed, and management and workers can only express their admiration and gratitude to them for their efforts on behalf of Tomoana.

Fortunately for the continuing operations at Tomoana, the follow through departments on the three lower floors of the old slaughterhouse block suffered no damage and the new mutton complex was never threatened by the fire. The new season kill can go ahead therefore as scheduled.

Committal to a full commissioning of the new complex has become necessary much sooner than anticipated, because of the destruction of the old slaughterfloor, but this is already underway. Arrangements have been made with our competitors for a clients’ beef kill and also for abattoir beef and pigs.

As a direct result of the fire the Company has been forced to lay off some one hundred and fifty employees. Of these, twenty or so have been employed by the demolition company responsible for clearing the burned out areas.

Some thirty workers have been re-deployed in other departments or in clean up gangs, and it is the intention of the Company, with the co-operation of the Union, to offer work on the mutton chains to all those who lost their jobs because of the fire, before any new workers are employed. This will happen as kill build-up makes it possible.

Two engineers from Headquarters in London, Messrs W. Hay and C. Glover have been at Tomoana since the beginning of October, planning for a new beef works to put Tomoana back into a beef killing operation as soon as possible.

Finally, the co-operation from all employees in the first few days drew high praise from the General Manager at Tomoana, Mr Michael Saunders.

He said that the tremendous amount of co-operative, enthusiastic and well directed effort shown in making the place safe to work in; moving meat at risk to working cold stores; and starting operation clean-up, indicated that all concerned were looking to find the opportunities for a better future, arising out of the fire.



Patea Livestock buyer Jim Marshall and Ross Symes discussing cattle on Ross’s “Manutahi” property. This property “Manawapou Farm” has been In the Symes family for six generations and consists of 800 acres of flat country and is run in conjunction with a sandy coastal run-off a total of 1300 acres farming over 3000 ewes plus 180 breeding cows. In addition to this over 600 cattle and 650 hoggets are wintered.

Ross, like many farmers, relies on the Company Buyers for market movements and general information on livestock and the Freezing Industry and is fortunate that he can, if needed, fall back on Jim’s vast experience.

Jim, who is one of 20 Company Buyers and Agents who supply Patea, joined Field Staff in 1963 following a career as a Shearer, Wool and Skin Buyer and Farm Manager, and is our South Taranaki Fat Stock representative.


The principal of Etablissements Essor of Papeete, Tahiti, Mr Jack Liao, discussing what is likely to be his heaviest meat importing year with Stuart Mills, (right) member of Fletcher’s export sales staff at the company’s head office in Wellington.

Mr Liao, who has been importing the Weddel brand of meat from New Zealand for 20 years from Fletcher’s, says he expects to exceed $1 million for the first time.

One of Tahiti’s largest wholesalers, Mr Liao supplies supermarkets, hotels and restaurants, and is the main distributor of Weddel meat on Tahiti.

He says that New Zealand meat, both beef and lamb, is the most highly regarded imported meat in Tahiti and says that in recent years the trend has begun to swing from frozen to chilled meat, which now makes up about 50 percent of imports.

“The chilled meat is going basically to the supermarket trade, with people being prepared to pay a premium for the air freighting, with the commercial catering organisations still preferring frozen cuts,” Mr Liao said.

Although the visit marked Mr Liao’s first to Wellington he has come to New Zealand previously for talks with Fletcher personnel at the Westfield Freezing Company in Auckland.


George Oxspring of the Auckland Meat Co. Ltd died in August after a short illness.

Mr Oxspring, who was 82, was very much part of the A.M.C. having started as an office junior at the Company’s Head Office in 1912 and still being actively associated up to the time of his death. For a number of years he was involved in the clerical side of the buying operation and at the same time was responsible for A.M.C.’s transport fleet, an operation which in the early years brought about the change from horse drawn to motorised vehicles.

In 1951 Mr Oxspring was appointed to the position of Manager and was made General Manager in 1954. In 1965 he became Managing Director. He retired in 1966 but remained on the Board of Directors and it would be fair to say that he took a keen interest in A.M C.’s affairs right through to the time of his death.

In the latter years of Mr Oxspring’s career he took a keen interest in the bacon business and in particular the NZ. Bacon Curers’ Association of which he was President for a number of years prior to retirement.

Mr Oxspring served with the N.Z. Army in both World Wars and was a prominent figure in rowing and boating circles. His retirement was an active one and he was well known for his annual cruises to the Bay of Islands which was no mean feat for a man of his years. Mr Oxspring is survived by two married daughters and five grandchildren.

It is with deep regret that Weddell’s World records the recent deaths of the following staff member and retired staff members of the Westfield Freezing Company.

Mr Bill Josephs served the company for twentyfour years, the latter five as foreman in charge of the night cleaning operations.

Mr Jack Dryland served the company for forty years, twenty-one of which were as a rendering foreman. Jack retired nine years ago.

Mr Wally Nield served the company for forty years, twenty-seven as the purchasing officer. He retired seven years ago.

AMC Veteran Retires

The general manager of W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd, Peter Johnston, making the farewell presentation to Mr J.J. Rich on his retirement from the Auckland Meat Company after 49 years’ service.

Mr Rich, whose grandfather Mr Jabez Marks was one of the founders of the A.M.C., started with the company as an apprentice butcher and soon after became one of the operation’s youngest shop managers.

He moved into the buying staff in the mid ’30’s and on his retirement was the livestock superintendent well known throughout Auckland province.

During the Second World War, Mr Rich served in Europe with the New Zealand Army and spent a lengthy term as a prisoner of war in Germany.

The Patea Freezing Company’s purchasing officer, Mr Colin Kirkwood, retired earlier this year after 22 years service having started his career as a stores clerk before being promoted to purchasing officer in 1962. Patea’s general manager, Mr Alan Parker, in presenting Mr Kirkwood with a farewell gift, thanked him for his many years of service and said that it was a tribute to him to see so many of the staff present at the farewell function.

The new president of the Patea freezing workers’ union, Brian McKenna, who has succeeded Alf Duggan who retired in July after holding the position since 1968. The large gathering that turned up to farewell Mr Duggan included members of his own union, representatives of the Patea works management, union officials from other districts and members of his family. In addition farewell phone calls and telegrams were received from many parts of the country.

A member of the local Maori social club gave him a traditional Maori farewell and the club prepared a meal for the evening function at which Mr Duggan was presented with a scroll of thanks for his service and a gift of appreciation from the Patea freezing worker’s union.

N Z. Stockfoods sales supervisor in the northern part of the North Island, Mr D. W. (Bill) Barclay retired earlier this year after 15 years’ service with the company. He joined W & R Fletcher In 1964 on his arrival in New Zealand, having worked for Unilever in Britain and Australia and was originally associated with marketing and selling frozen vegetables, ice cream smallgoods canned goods and island sales.

Mr Barclay is pictured (left) with (behind him) his successor, Alan Gregory and David Gusscott, general manager of N .Z. stockfoods (right).


The Westfield Freezing company golf squad had a comfortable win in the annual interworks tournament played at Taupo.

Westfield took the Rowlands Shield with 24½ points with the defending holders, Patea, unable to produce last year’s form, second on 21½. Tomoana was third on 19½ points with the head office squad truly relegated to the wooden spoon with only 8½ points.

However Wellington salvaged some prestige through shipping manager Stewart Pauling, who took the individual honours winning the W & R Fletcher cup for the best three-round nett total from Percy Lambly of Westfield, and the Cryovac Cup for the best nett round of the competition, a 66.

Barry Fergus of Patea took the Wally Knight cup for the best par and Brian Sills of Westfield took the Blue Port-ACT cup for the best stableford.

Tomoana’s sole trophy was won by Trevor Arnold who with the best nett on the final day took the Mark Hinchliff trophy.

The Saturday matches were played on the Taupo old course with the second day on the new Centennial course, with adverse weather and heavy rain hampering the players on both days.


The Superintendent of the Patea Freezing Company’s by-products department, Eldon Kehely, joined the company as a costings clerk in 1949 under the then general manager Mr J. B. Grant. He has since held the positions of test clerk, worked in stockfoods administration and in 1970 was appointed cost accountant when he saw the introduction of standard costing and results. He was appointed to his present position in 1976. Eldon has worked under five general managers during his service at Patea and has seen many changes in the works over the years. He recalls the days when Patea processed more than 500,000 lambs, 45,000 beef and some 12,000 pigs in a peak season but notes that the MAF regulations were nowhere near as stringent in those days when the MAF staff consisted of only three people as opposed to a staff of more than 30 today. Other changes that have taken place during his career have included the introduction of new killing methods, changes in boning, freezing procedures, chilled beef exporting and the change to lamb cutting not to mention the upgrading of Paka’s rendering.

In his youth Eldon was an active sportsman playing cricket, football, tennis, badminton, golf and hockey, captaining the Taranaki men’s hockey team in the middle 1950’s. His interest in sport remains strong, and he was a member of the Patea team that won the Fletcher interworks golf tournament last year but his high hopes that the team repeat their performance weren’t realised this year. Eldon is currently treasurer of the Patea golf club. As a King Scout, he attended the 1947 world scout jamboree held in Paris and spent three months in England and France, which started a keen interest in travel. Eldon and his wife Marie have two children.

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Business / Organisation

W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd

Format of the original


Date published

October 1979


  • Trevor Arnold
  • D (Bill) W Barclay
  • Alan Chapman
  • Jack Dryland
  • Alf Duggan
  • Barry Fergus
  • J B Grant
  • Alan Gregory
  • David Gusscott
  • Gordon Hughson
  • Junior Huhu
  • Peter Johnston
  • Bill Josephs
  • Eldon Kehely
  • Marie Kehely
  • Colin Kirkwood
  • Percy Lambly
  • Jack Liao
  • Jabez Marks
  • Jim Marshall
  • Ray McAliede
  • Brian McKenna
  • Stuart Mills
  • Wally Nield
  • George Oxspring
  • Alan Parker
  • Stewart Pauling
  • John Prendergast
  • J J Rich
  • Bruce Robertson
  • Michael Sanders
  • Brian Sills
  • John Simpson
  • Ross Symes

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