The Hawkes Bay Farmers Meat Company, generally known as Whakatu, was established in 1915 and became the largest meat-processing plant in the country.
For many freezing workers it was regarded as the "university of hard knocks".
Its main business was the slaughter and processing of sheep and beef and this provided employment for local whānau. Whakatu was also a focus for identity and friendship for workers, their whānau and the wider community.
The Whakatu community built itself around the plant to approximately 90 homes that are all privately owned.
On Friday October 10, 1986, Whakatu closed and all workers were laid off, affecting the whole Hawke's Bay region.
Around 2200 people lost their jobs. The community continued to support the families under the umbrella of the Whakatu Community Trust.
Community gardens were set up to sustain the wider community between Kohupatiki, Matahiwi and Whakatu. People needed to re-establish themselves and seek other work opportunities, some finding employment at Tomoana, Takapau and Richmond Meats. Others went on to change their lives and found new avenues that have taken them to where they are today.
Over the years ex-workers and their families have celebrated the milestones since the closure and continue to pay tribute to those workmates who have since passed away.
This year marks the 35-year celebration and a commemoration event is being planned to take place on Saturday October 9, starting with a ceremony at the Whakatu memorial stone, where memories will be rekindled as old friends meet.
The Whakatu Freezing Works planning committee consists of Malcolm Cornes, Gilbert and Billy Kemp, Ralph and Ricky Sparks, Tom McGuire, Ngahiwi and Mere Tomoana. The committee has met regularly to organise this event. With the support of Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated and Credit Union Baywide, the committee has great hopes that it will be most enjoyable.
"The Covid lockdown may have held us up a little but we're full steam ahead," says Ngahiwi Tomoana.
"We have a day of fun activities, a polo-shirt and cap, a memorial booklet and lots of fun to be had on this day," says Ralph Sparks.
If you are interested in coming along register online www.kahungunu.iwi.nz/whakatufreezingworks or ring Ruth 0272139547