Part-time historian and past editor of the Stratford Press, Ray Cleaver, reports on some demolition work.

Mangatoki has been reverberating to the sound of destruction over the past few weeks as the local 83-year-old local dairy factory was demolished.

The building has been a fertiliser store for around 30 years and had a long history in the dairy industry, but now a 50 tonne digger has returned the site to bare land again.

The factory has quite a history, going back 137 years. The original wooden factory building on the banks of the Mangatoki Stream was erected by young Eltham entrepreneur C A Wilkinson who purchased the land and built in 1892.

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These were the days when a stagecoach with four horses took people from Eltham to Opunake and there was a toll gate on the Mangatoki bridge to help pay for roading.

Farmers brought their milk to the factory in big cans on horse drawn vehicles.

The factory during the demolition process. Photo / Ray Cleaver.
The factory during the demolition process. Photo / Ray Cleaver.

Mangatoki then was a thriving community with two stores (one still standing), a blacksmiths forge (building still standing), a school, a church (now at the Pioneer Village) and a row of factory worker houses alongside the factory.

Wilkinson was then aged 21 and had a keen business sense but his backers lost their financial support. His mentor, Chew Chong, regarded by many as the father of the dairy export trade, then took it over.

It then passed to the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company but after low prices on the London market it was sold to a cooperative that was formed by local farmers.

Power for the factory was from a water-driven turbine which was driven via a race from the stream from a dam. The dam was the local swimming hole.

In 1934 the original factory burned down and it was rebuilt with the six-vat cheese factory at a cost of 3875 pounds and a building for making whey butter which was built for 8250 pounds.

The factory was a pioneer in the production of Rennet in a cool store beside the river and this led to full scale rennet production in Eltham.

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The Mangatoki Dairy Company went into liquidation in 1966 and the factory was sold. It has been a fertiliser store and depot under various companies since until it was demolished this month by Ravensdown.

Ravensdown Operations Manager Gordon French said the condition of the factory made it cheaper to demolish than repair and there was asbestos in the roof.

He said there were no future plans for the site at this stage.

Bare land sits where the historic factory once was. Photo / Ray Cleaver.
Bare land sits where the historic factory once was. Photo / Ray Cleaver.