A return to my old town Part 1

A company called the Kaipara Co-operative Dairy Factory Company Limited has been formed, and a valuable factory site at Helensville South purchased.

The property is on ideal one for any factory. It is bounded by the railway, road, and sea; at high tide cargo vessels can berth at the wharf, and there is also a siding to the property, so the cost of the handling will be very small.

There will be no difficulty about water. There is a fine stream - Mangakura Creek - short distance away, and the principals have alson decided to ask the Rev. H Mason of Otahuhu who has gained fame as a water diviner, to visit the property.

It is hoped to have the factory started by August.

The farmers throughout the district are beginning to realise that co-operation is the most profitable method of dairying and shares are being taken up very readily.

The factory will be run on the home-seperator system. Motor boats will be employed to collect the cream from the settlements on the shores of the Kaipara Harbour, while railway will be availed of by other suppliers.

- Ohinemuri Gazette 30 June 1911

Returning to the town I lived in for nearly 20 years and spending a couple of days walking around recalling memories both good and bad. I had to stop and stare sadly at what was left of the Kaipara Co-operative Dairy Company buildings.

When I first moved to Helensville in 1985 as a young 21 year old with my then husband and my first child the dairy factory was the centre of the community. Barely two years after moving there it was announced much to the dismay of the community that the dairy factory would be closing down. With the closure of the factory the town virtually died.

As for the factory itself, it was taken over by a company called Martech Industries who manufactured fruit juice products. Within a couple of years though, the company went into liquidation, and all the equipment within the buildings, was then stripped out and sold off.

Over the years, it found different uses, but slowly the buildings deteriorated. Now they're little more than derelict shells, the windows all smashed out by vandals and the walls covered in graffiti. What a sad legacy, for a once thriving dairy company that started life in 1911. It had even won prizes at different Agricultural and Pastoral shows for its fine quality butter. I recall in the early 1980's the dairy company venturing into Margarine and with this in mind they had built a separate Edible Oils plant. That part is still fortunately intact and very well maintained. The company marketed their own product under the brand name 'River Valley Margarine' I still remember the label with a blue background and a representation of the meandering Kaipara River set in the center. How's that for a good memory.

Railway wagons used to divert around the back of the factory on the purpose built sidings, but now, the tracks have long since been torn up, and weeds have replaced the once well kept gardens. There will be a big hole when the building has gone. A blank spot of concrete and old foundations. Eventually the memory may be lost.

Now I've heard a demolition order has been placed upon the old dairy factory. All I'll say is what a waste and what a shame. It was a once a landmark. What replaces it who knows that could be years away. For now it's just a ghost of a once great company. I'll miss that old building.


  1. That's rather a sad story. I had no idea that there was a dairy factory operating there until so recently. It would have made a big difference to the town as you say. What a shame it is to be demolished, pity no one can find a worthwhile use for it.

  2. I know the exact feeling you get when a piece of history is going to be lost from your hometown. My Mum's place, where I grew up from the age of 1month old, is going to be demolished... and all the other perfectly good houses and farms out where I grew up to make way for a massive four lane (each way) freeway.
    They call it progress in government, but I call it life zapping stuff.
    I enjoyed reading your writings about where you came from and your memories. Sad about that building, it still has such character

  3. Thanks for this. I'd wondered about the history of that building. It reminds me of the sad remnants of the dairy co-ops buildings and dairy-related infrastructure on the East Coast:

  4. in 2012 this property was sold to new owners.there are restrictions on the use and/or development of the site due to a failing sewage system in helensville.

  5. Thanks for the information much appreciated!