Weddel’s World 1982 – June

Weddel’s World

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



JUNE 1982

“Little Toot” not forgotten

“LITTLE Toot”, Westfield’s vintage steam locomotive, has been retired from service since 1974 but has a long and colourful history with the works.

The little green and red engine was built in Leeds in 1927 for Westfield, and with a modest 12 horsepower and 0-4-0 (four driven wheels) has outlived two other 30 horsepower 0-6-0 locomotives in servicing the work’s shunting needs.

“Little Toot” was taken out of service because of excessive smoke and boiler problems but Westfield’s Chief Engineer, Mr Tomlinson, says the locomotive could probably still be used if the boiler repairs were made.

At the height of its career, the locomotive hauled an amazing 26,000 tons of freight into, and out of Westfield every week. Because of the small horsepower rating and light weight, “Little Toot” had to cross Great South Road into Auckland 100 times a day – much to the dismay of the Main Highways Board at the disruption to traffic.

It was inevitable in crossing this highway so often that “Little Toot” would run into some problems.

Mr Tomlinson recalls that, on one occasion, the locomotive was knocked clean off the rails by a big Public Works Department truck and suffered a very bent chassis. And on another, it was hit by a Public Transport Company bus and the front axle had to be replaced. He says “Little Toot” now “rests quietly” in the locomotive shed but is by no means forgotten.

“Quite a lot of the vintage railway clubs in the country are aware of her existence and are hoping that they may finally become her proud owner,” he says.

“Little Toot” is pictured riding the rails once more under the power of an Andrew Barclay locomotive which was converted from steam to diesel in 1972 and is Westfield’s current engine.

Patea Freezing Company closes

THE Patea Freezing Company Ltd will close at the end of the season. This was announced last month by the General Manager of W & R Fletcher Ltd, Mr P. H. Johnston, who said the plant’s performance in recent years had forced the decision. There was also an over-capacity of works in the area for beef, mutton and lamb.

“We are very conscious of the implications for the township of Patea and the surrounding area, but the company unfortunately has no alternative”, Mr Johnston said.

“Capital outlays required by various regulatory authorities allied to past losses mean the works would not be viable even with improved performance”.

The plant is expected to close at the end of August to allow a realistic period for negotiations and to cover bobby calf arrangements, Mr Johnston added.

Patea is one of the oldest freezing works in the country. Formed by a small group of settlers in 1883, the works were taken over by W & R Fletcher in l 934. At the present time the company employs close to 800 people, and has an annual wage bill of approximately $10 million.

Slipe quality trusted globally

ONCE considered a by-product of the annual sheep and lamb kill, wool is now a major industry for W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd, with production around five million kilograms a year.

Skilful management, a consistently top quality product and a progressive marketing programme contribute to the company’s worldwide success as a producer of slipe wool.

The production of slipe wool is handled within the company’s works and involves the removal of the skin from the slaughtered animal; a thorough cleaning process; the application of a lime sulphide depilatory which loosens the wool from the pelt overnight; skilful dewooling by a wool puller who also grades it into standardised types; and drying.

The wool which is finally pressed into the bales and stamped with the Weddel brand is ready for the textile industry without prior sorting.

High quality

The uniformity of slipe wools, and the careful system of grading into some 90 distinct types, encourages buyers to buy “sight unseen” with the confidence that they will receive the expected grade and quality.

W & R Fletcher Wool Manager, Mr Alan Chapman, said: “Our product is received very well. Buyers realise we have a very high quality control and in turn a quality product. We find that once people have bought our wool, they come back and buy more.”

The company produces 30 to 35 thousand bales a year – 20 to 25 thousand of those coming from the four North Island works and the balance from the South Island. Should the demand be there, however, it can sell 40 to 50 thousand bales to the export markets.

Mr Chapman said, the company’s main markets for conventional unscoured slipe wool are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the USA and Canada.

Major markets for scoured slipe wool are in the far Eastern countries of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan and also in Germany, Northern America, the United Kingdom, Italy and Greece.

Buyers in these countries produce primarily carpets and knitwear as end products, both for their local market, and export markets.

Upholstery industries are also beginning to favour wool again as a material, not the least for the fibre’s proven resistance to fire.

Although New Zealand is the largest producer of slipe wool in the world, the export control centre for W & R Fletcher is in Bradford, in the British Midlands. From there, offers are made and received from buyers worldwide.

This “hub of a wheel” in Bradford eliminates double selling of the same stocks and allows an overall view of market strengths.


Intensive management and the right selling and marketing for each season is a major success factor.

“The wool market at the moment is at the bottom of a trough, both in terms of prices and demand,” Mr Chapman said.

“The slackening of demand has been caused by a downturn in the Northern Hemisphere economy.

“Fortunately, particularly in Europe, it looks as if it has bottomed out and is showing signs of rising again. The market is cyclical and next season will show an increased demand.”


The ability to forecast future market demand means stocks can be held for availability when the demand increases again.

Although most unshorn lambs wool is produced between November and January, Mr Chapman said: “We make sure that we have stocks of most types of wool for all the season. We do not operate just as a producer, but also as an operating merchant. Our policy is to try and sell direct to the market.”

On future demand for slipe wool Mr Chapman predicted the opening up of a new market in the Far East.

“Wool has been going up to the Far East ever since we first opened up in Japan. In the relatively near future, the manufacturing emphasis will move to a country such as Indonesia, which has a large population and has become more competitive in terms of manufacturing costs,” he said.

WITH the installation of this new computerised Andar scour train, pictured,the Tomoana Freezing Works has leapt to the forefront of the wool scouring industry.

The Tomoana scouring plant operates on an independent commission basis although normally W & R Fletcher Ltd provides about a quarter of the total throughput in slipe wool about 13,000 bales.

Its annual scouring capacity has averaged 50,000 bales over the past four years. But once the Andar train is in full production, its estimated capacity will be about 75,000 bales.

The plant is computer controlled and fully automatic, and the whole process can be monitored from the control room above the train. The action is the same as a conventional machine, but the new technology will improve efficiency.

The new train reduces water usage and the duration of the scouring process, cuts effluent discharge by about half and cuts energy consumption by 25 percent.

Lamb sales to Korea healthy

FOLLOWING the signing of a contract with a Korean processing company, W & R Fletcher is now producing large quantities of lamb in the form of boneless lamb rolls for the Japanese market.

Export Sales Manager, Mr Bruce Bishop, says that while many well populated areas such as Tokyo and Osaka are not yet large lamb consumers, the possibilities of the market developing are good.

But quite apart from the consumers of the nearby Japanese market, Korea will be feeding an avalanche of western tastebuds in a few years time.

Seoul, the capital, will host the 1988 Summer Olympics and its 15,500 athletes, 3,200 staff members from IOC member states, approximately 1,500 media people and 1,500 members of youth camping groups – not to mention the thousands of spectators.

Weddel meats promoted in Tokyo . . .

TRADE fairs continue to be an effective promotion medium for New Zealand meat products bearing the Weddel brand. In three centres recently, both national and international, these products were displayed directly to consumers and buyers alike.

HUNDREDS OF New Zealand lamb sandwiches and shish-kebabs were sampled by Japanese visitors to the meat industry stand at the recent Foodex fair in Tokyo.

Many of the samplers were chefs and restauranteurs [restaurateurs] and the display was aimed primarily at this audience.

W & R Fletcher’s Export Sales Manager, Mr Bruce Bishop, who represented the New Zealand Meat Exporters Council, stressed the importance of the exhibition in promoting the sale of processed lamb to the food industry in Japan.

Future participation depends on Department of Trade and Industry support, but the success of the stand proves it to be a worthy project.

Mr Bishop said: “Foodex is a necessary place for New Zealand to display its products. It is one fair that caters to the chefs and restaurant owners in Japan – where they can see the variety of cuts available to them.”

The stand included a snack bar serving the lamb products, grassfed beef, and offal dishes such as kebabs of heart, brain and kidney; a lamb and variety meats chiller, two beef chillers and a video tape using a local chef to demonstrate four high quality French style dishes.

Mr Bishop said the video in particular was popular, and may become the focal point of future displays. General Manager of Weddel Ltd in Tokyo, Mr Michael de Lacey, also attended the fair.

In Auckland . . .

MEANWHILE, Weddel products were promoted to the New Zealand public and overseas buyers in an effective and attractive presentation in Auckland.

The Weddel stand at the recent New Zealand Exporter’s Fair ’82 was arrayed with colourful cans of lamb tongues, corned mutton and corned beef as well as kegs of salted beef.

Although these canned products, and others bearing the Weddel name, are well known throughout the Pacific region, W&R Fletcher Ltd’s Assistant Export Sales Manager, Mr Stuart Mills, says money is well spent on promotions of this kind.

Visitors from Australia, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and trade and industry representatives from the United States, including about 750 registered buyers, attended the four-day fair.

The stand was a success and received a lot of promising inquiries which Mr Mills says must be followed up.

. . . And West Germany

NEW Zealand lamb (or Lamm aus Neuseeland) featured prominently on a Weddel stand (pictured) at the ANUGA Trade Fair in Cologne, West Germany recently.

The attractive retail packs of lamb produced by Weddel Hamburg were of special interest as they have been at previous shows.

Among those viewing the stand were the New Zealand Meat Producers Board’s European Director, Mr Douglas; and the board’s Continental Manager, Mr W Joyce.

Dairy cadet wins scholarship to UK

A 19-year-old dairy farm cadet has been awarded the 1982 Farm Cadet Travelling Scholarship sponsored by W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd. He is Richard Hodder (pictured), who comes from Rotorua but is currently serving a cadetship on a Waikato farm.

The scholarship was presented in Hamilton by W & R Fletcher’s Auckland Provincial Livestock Manager, Mr C. W. Macmillan. Richard will spend six months studying farming in Britain, particularly the practical side of dairy and sheep farming.

Richard has worked on one dairy and two sheep units, and recently sat his trade certificate examination. He has also won two awards in the Waikato Farm Cadet Scheme: the Harrison Shield for outstanding ability, and the Farmers Mutual Award for first year theory and practical.

The 1981 winner, 21-year-old Gordon Blanshard returned from the UK in January this year.

Gordon was hosted at various farms during his six-month study visit and was particularly interested in dairy, crop, pig and sheep farming.

He will now prepare a report on the subject of his choice. This will be available through the Federated Farmers, who have organised the contest since its inception seven years ago.


Tomoana takes cricket win

TOMOANA triumphed over Wellington in the annual cricket tournament and won the championship.

The weekend started with the previous champion, Patea, failing by only eight runs to catch Tomoana at the completion of 40 overs. WRF Wellington startled all the pundits by convincingly beating Westfield in the other game of the day.

This was Wellington’s first ever victory since the inception of the tournament in 1977.

The final between Tomoana and Wellington resulted in a 66 run victory to Tomoana, who was in top form. Tomoana battled first in the final and put together 211 runs in 40 overs.

Wellington replied with 145, but failed to produce the sharp fielding shown against Westfield the previous day and more than one set of hands was needed to count the dropped catches.

The wooden spoon was taken north by Westfield, as was the lead bat award. The award went to Westfield’s Greg Jones, who was run out on both days.

‘Bubs’ belts burglar

RETIREMENT has not slowed Arthur (Bubs) Knight, formerly manager of Westfield’s retail shop, as a burglar discovered the hard way recently in a rather ill-advised robbery attempt.

Mr Knight heard a noise while watching television and went to investigate well-armed with a stick. Once located, the intruder was lucky to escape with a welt across the chest, a clout on the shoulder and a probable broken nose.

The burglar could be forgiven, however, if he was unaware that the 76-year-old man was “Bubs” Knight, the most rugged forward in provincial rugby in the 1920’s and 1930’s who also played for New Zealand 14 times during his rugby career.

He bowls them over

FOR the past 14 years holidays have meant one thing to Westfield’s Quality Controller Danny O’Connor playing bowls.

Not as remarkable perhaps as the fact that he has a New Zealand Gold Star, which is awarded after winning five New Zealand titles. He also holds the record for achieving the Star in the shortest time, and at the youngest age.

Since 1967 Danny has not missed a year, winning either a Club, Auckland or National title. He has played in the national tournament every year since 1975 and won the fours in 1975, 1979 and 1981. In this year’s tournament he won both the fours and the pairs.

From a bowling family, he has been interested in bowls since he was three years old. He joined the Okahu Bowling Club when he was 17, borrowed his mother’s bowls and won his first championship.

Danny has travelled extensively in New Zealand, Fiji and Australia with his sport and this year will represent New Zealand in Australia in the Newcastle pairs.

THIS team of sprinters from the Patea Freezing Company took first place In the Business House Relay held by the Amateur Athletic Club In Patea recently.

The cup now has pride of place in the foyer of the main office building.

The team from left: Chris Dombroski, Bruce Taylor, Bruce Phillips and Peter McElhinney, fought a howling wind and some tough competition over the 400 metre course.

Young couple makes medical history

JEFF Jones, a cost clerk with the New Zealand Stockfoods Company in Auckland, and his wife, Julie, made medical history recently as the first paraplegic couple in the world to have twins.

Dylan Peter and Caleb Evan, delivered by caesarean section five and a half weeks premature, spent the first few weeks of their lives in an incubator but are now healthy, thriving babies.

Jeff has been confined to a wheel chair since he fell from a building site in Britain seven years ago, and Julie was involved in a car accident five years ago.


They met three years ago while training for the 1980 Paraplegic Games in Holland, and married last June.

The Jones are still adjusting to the limelight, but Jeff said he has been touched by the support and understanding of his workmates.

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Business / Organisation

W & R Fletcher (NZ) Ltd

Format of the original


Date published

June 1982


  • Bruce Bishop
  • Gordon Blanshard
  • Alan Chapman
  • Michael de Lacy
  • Chris Dombroski
  • Richard Hodder
  • P H Johnston
  • Dylan Peter Jones
  • Caleb Evan Jones
  • Greg Jones
  • Jeff Jones
  • Julie Jones
  • W Joyce
  • Arthur (Bubs) Knight
  • C W Macmillan
  • Peter McElhinney
  • Stuart Mills
  • Danny O'Connor
  • Bruce Phillips
  • Bruce Taylor

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