Story: Waikato region

Page 9. Farm services

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Ruakura Research Centre

In 1901 a state experimental farm was established at Ruakura, and from 1912 this incorporated a farmer training school. Research was carried out first on poultry, bees, fruits and crops, and then on dairying.

After the farm’s closure, the Department of Agriculture opened a research station in 1939. This gained an international reputation for work on animal nutrition and genetics, dairying and milking methods, cattle breeding and pasture research. Ruakura ran farmer education programmes and an annual Farmers’ Week, influencing the expansion of dairying between the 1940s and 1960s. Since 1992 Ruakura has been part of AgResearch, a Crown research institute.

Rukuhia and Whatawhata research stations

A government soil-fertility research station was set up at Rukuhia in 1946, and a hill-country research station at Whatawhata in 1949. Operating until 1967, the Rukuhia station developed drainage systems and fertilisers for Waikato peat lands. Whatawhata carried out animal breeding, soil fertility and agriforestry research to increase the productivity of North Island hill-country farming. It is now owned by Waikato–Tainui and leased by AgResearch.

Te Kauwhata Viticultural Research Station

In 1892 the state Waerenga Experimental Station was established at Te Kauwhata. After trialling exotic and fruit trees it carried out horticultural research, then from 1901 focused on viticulture. In 1965, as Te Kauwhata Viticultural Research Station, it came under the control of Ruakura. It closed in 1992.

Livestock Improvement Corporation

The Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) traces its origins to 1909, when farmers’ groups began systematic herd testing. In 1951 the New Zealand Dairy Board opened a commercial artificial insemination centre at Newstead, east of Hamilton. This grew to include dairy improvement and national data management centres. In 1988 it became the Livestock Improvement Corporation. A user-owned cooperative since 2001, LIC provides services to the dairy, beef and deer industries.

Waikato Innovation Park

Waikato’s reputation for scientific research inspired the establishment of Waikato Innovation Park by the Waikato Institute of Technology, the University of Waikato and AgResearch in 2004. The park, strategically located adjacent to Ruakura, brings together around 50 agritech and biotech businesses.

Shows and field days

Local agricultural and pastoral (A & P) associations were formed around the region, and the first Waikato A & P show took place at Cambridge in 1877. Shows alternated between Hamilton and Cambridge until 1892, when Hamilton’s Claudelands showgrounds became the venue. The shows promoted Waikato agriculture and business, and featured fairground entertainment.

In 1907 the Winter Show Association initiated a winter show, which shifted from central Hamilton to Claudelands in the 1960s.

From 1969 the New Zealand National Fieldays Association aimed to showcase the best of local and international agricultural innovations. By the 21st century Fieldays, held annually in June at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton airport, was the largest such event in the southern hemisphere. In 2019 Fieldays attracted nearly 130,000 visitors, many from overseas.

Cow towns

Hamilton’s enduring reputation as a ‘cow town’ was based on the services it provided to farmers from the surrounding district. The long main thoroughfare, Victoria St, was lined with banks and shops, including stock and station agents and farm-machinery outlets. It was a magnet for farmers with money in their pockets. Morrinsville and Te Awamutu also developed as ‘cow towns’.

Farming service industries

Manufacturing businesses connected with farming developed. A. M. Bisley and Company made agricultural machinery from the 1930s. Truscotts (NZ), an Australian company operating in Hamilton from 1953, designed a stainless-steel milk tanker. Gallagher Engineering, which started in the late 1940s and became a company in 1963, pioneered the electric fence. Later, as Gallagher Group, it set up companies producing animal-management and business-security systems, fuel pumps and plastics.

Aviation

After the Second World War Ossie James founded James Aviation at Rukuhia. A subsidiary, Aero Engine Services, began building aeroplanes – the Airtourer and the Airtrainer – in the 1960s. Meanwhile, another offshoot, Air Parts (NZ), gained world rights to manufacture Fletcher topdressing aircraft. The two firms merged in 1972 as New Zealand Aerospace Industries. In 1982 the company was taken over by Pacific Aerospace Corporation, which developed the Cresco topdressing aircraft, later modified for skydiving. In 2016 it was estimated that more than 1000 aircraft had been built or assembled in the region.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Waikato region - Farm services', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/waikato-region/page-9 (accessed 18 January 2020)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 31 May 2010, updated 1 Jul 2015