Dairy farming around Harbour Cone declined in the early 1900s. The Nyhon family bought out the small farms down in Smiths Gully, as well as the Larnach Model Farm on Camp Road. The amalgamated farms gave the Nyhon family 250-300 acres, with their best road access being at Camp Road, rather than Highcliff Road.
Larnach’s Camp Road farmstead was not ideal for a shearing shed and associated yards as they sit precariously on a small flat section of steep hillside. The small barn was eventually built into two-stand shearing shed around 1910. The back wall had been supported by massive natural posts, which were two stories high, with corrugated iron cladding to protect the supporting bank. Today, the posts are now rotten hollow shells, the cladding sheets dropping off in chunks, and the central roof beam broken in two places.
The Hereweka Trust is in the process of deconstructing the little shearing shed, with detailed recording at all stages. While making his first drawings and measurement of the building, consultant archaeologist Peter Petchey, came across eight wool bale stencils, tucked neatly away on a top plate since the shed was last used in the 1990s. They are an interesting find and provide an insight into the move from dairying into sheep farming.
The continuation of the major planting project at Smiths Creek has been a long and wearisome project at times as the Trust comes to the end of this years planting. Without the invaluable work of a team of dedicated volunteers our work with the Trees That Count project would not have been possible. One group who has been tireless in its assistance of the Hereweka Trust has been the Dunedin City Council Task-force Green volunteers. They have moved mountains of materials and plants as well as tackling some of the stubborn areas of gorse left remaining within the catchment. The Trust are very grateful for the all of the help we have had this year and hope that the last few months will not stop people coming back next year!
To show our appreciation Trust members Paul Pope and Lala Frazer put on a barbecue for the large team of over 30 people we had at Smiths Creek today. We have certainly put the group through their paces as they ate through 60 sausages and 40 pieces of marinated steak. There’s nothing like hard work outdoors to give people a hearty appetite! Well done everyone, it was our pleasure and we look forward to seeing you all back next year. (Click on pictures to see full size)
The Hereweka Harbour Cone property has a fascinating history and landscape, and now new citizens are able to add to that history and put down new roots in New Zealand. The Dunedin City Council offers new citizens the option of having their gift tree planted on the public land of the Hereweka Harbour Cone Block so that it remains and flourishes in perpetuity. Recently Lara Jones planted the kowhai she was given at Smiths Creek when she became a New Zealand citizen. Here she is observed by dog, Zak, who regularly supervises the planting of native trees in the Smiths Creek area.
Kia ora Lara, nau mai haere mai
Today the New Zealand dairy industry is worth approximately $18 billion dollars in export earnings and produces around 20.7 billion litres of milk per annum. It has become one of New Zealand’s biggest export earners and dominates our landscape and economy. However, the dairy industry began in a more humble manner during the 19th century colonial period in places like Hereweka on the Otago Peninsula.
Hereweka was divided into nineteen farms varying in size from 10 – 115 acres. Some were probably no more than subsistence properties, while larger farms were developed into economic units for the period. As the Hereweka bush was cleared and developed into pasture, dairying became the dominant type of farming on the property. With this development, Hereweka farmers began to look for opportunities to sell their milk and cream further afield to make important farm revenue.
In September 1877 a group of farmers on the Hereweka property met and decided to build a cheese factory. The building was to be situated on Captain William Leslie’s property adjacent to Highcliff Road. Very little is known about what the building looked like, though we do know its dimensions were 14 feet x 24 feet. Water was drawn from a natural spring and fetched through pipes from a wall built above Highcliff Road. The founding shareholders of the Hereweka Cheese factory were;
- Capt William Leslie Snr
- William Leslie Jnr
- Robert Forbes
- Robert Dick
- William Allan
- William Roger
- Thomas Scott
- William Hunter
- James Rutherford
- George Bates
The cheese factory was not without its difficulties especially due to the steep terrain. Each farmer had different methods for getting milk to the factory. Robert Dick had special milk cans with flat sides that could be attached to a horse, William Hunter used a wheelbarrow while James Rutherford used a bullock with a sled. The first cheese maker at the Hereweka factory was Edmund Ward who began learning the trade under supervision from the experienced cheese maker John L McGregor. McGregor was the first cheese maker at the Springfield site near Pukehiki. Hannah Scott, the daughter of Thomas Scott assisted Ward in making the cheese at the factory. The cheese was sold directly to the George Street grocery store of Esther & Low, and the Otago Daily Times reported that the factory had produced 2.5 tons of cheddar cheese in 1879 valued at 6.5 pence/pound. However, disaster struck the factory in October 1881 when a massive bush fire destroyed the factory and many other farmsteads in the area. The Otago Daily Times gave a dramatic report on the 17th of October 1881 of the Leslie family and their attempts to save the factory.
“…the Harbour Cone Company’s Cheese Factory succumbed to the flames, though great exertions were made by Mr and Mrs Leslie, and Mr Leslie, jun., to save the building. Nothing with the exception of some bacon and a saw could be got out, and the whole building became a total wreck within a few minutes’ time. Mr Leslie’s dwelling-house was twice on fire, but was put out, though in one place the weatherboards were burned through. The dairy also had a narrow escape, one of the piles being burnt completely through before it was noticed. Mr Leslie’s byre and sheds were also destroyed. The factory, in which there were three cheese presses and other machinery, was insured in the Norwich Union Company’s office for £150, but the building was valued at £50 above this sum.”
Over recent weeks the Hereweka Trust have had a range of volunteers planting trees on one of the steep slopes above the Smiths Creek Catchment. Supervised by our Chair Lala Frazer and her husband Ian, many hands have made light work of this ambitious re-vegetation project. On Sunday 28th the Trust were very pleased to host the Otago Campus Greens on the site who have added further planting to the area.
On Sunday 28th the Hereweka Harbour Cone Trust held its first Annual General Meeting. The meeting was held “al fresco” at the Bacon Street entrance to the property. After the usual reports all trustees expressed their wish to remain on the committee and our officer holders will remain in place for another year. One of the more interesting aspects of today’s meeting was the arrival of one of our members by horse. It would be doubtful that many organisations have a horse at its AGM. Its worth noting that the horse does not have voting rights!