Waima and the Tokomaru Bay Freezing Works

Waima is a town as big on history as it is small in size, at the far end of a no-exit coastal track north of Tokomaru Bay. The freezing works here are ruins of a 1911 industrial building representing a concluded but not forgotten chapter in the story of the land and the people of Tairawhiti, and in the fluctuating fortunes of 20th century New Zealand agriculture and economic development.

With Ngati Porou populating this area for centuries, the welcoming nature of the local hapu saw settlers move in early and take on farming blocks which later necessitated the industry that moved in, converting Waima into a fast turning cog in the wheels of the sheep and beef machine that paid New Zealand's bills for decades. This era began with the first shipment of frozen beef from Port Chalmers to the United Kingdom, with freezing works popping up around the country to service the new industry.

Though the farmers of this area were at first served by works at Gisborne, stock arrived in poor condition due to the arduous journey to market. The Tokomaru works were built from concrete and brick in 1911, by a company with Sir Apirana Ngata and William Busby amongst the directors, and Te Whanau a Ruataupare as a shareholder. The offices and wool stores of the New Zealand Shipping company joined the action not long after and both thrived until the 1950s, when a downturn saw their demise.

Relics of both Maori and Pakeha joint fortunes in agriculture here remain, deteriorating under the Tairawhiti sun, parts already more than half overcome by the native bush that had been here before. The enormous wharf associated with these historic businesses also survives for the visitor's eyes,  but not in serviceable condition. Waima's grandest house, formerly the residence of the manager of the New Zealand Shipping Company, (1913) is in private hands and can be found in good repair. 

Image Credits: David Baldock Photographer and Koenraad Kuiper