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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



New Zealand and Australian Land Company

The New Zealand and Australian Land Company was undoubtedly the most successful of the land companies and it still controls two pastoral properties in the South Island, although its major interests for many years have been in Australia. In the early 1860s a number of unincorporated societies in Scotland held land in Otago and Southland, and James Morton, a Glasgow merchant, set about amalgamating them. The New Zealand and Australian Land Company was formed by the amalgamation of these holdings, the company's interests in Australia being in the form of large pastoral holdings. The new organisation embarked on a programme of further buying, but its farming operations did not prove very profitable and in 1867 Thomas Brydone, who had a wide measure of experience in estate management, came out from Scotland to reorganise affairs. By that time the company owned seven large properties – Edendale, Clydevale, Kawarau, Moeraki, Totara, Ardgowan, and Kurow, as well as a number of smaller ones.

James Morton also had interests in another organisation, the Canterbury and Otago Association which owned five properties – Acton, the Levels, Pareora, Hakataramea in Canterbury, and one Deep Dell in Otago – all of which proved very profitable. In 1865 a young man, William Saltau Davidson, had come out to New Zealand in this company's service and by 1878 was overseeing all its affairs in New Zealand. In that year by special Act of the Imperial Parliament the two organisations were amalgamated, with Davidson the manager in Scotland and Brydone in New Zealand. The importance of these two men lies in their role in the establishment of the frozen meat industry. The company itself faced some difficulties immediately after the amalgamation, as the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank, in which Morton was involved, created some lack of confidence in the company's position.

Apart from its pioneering work in the establishment of the frozen meat and dairy industries, the company's efforts during the 1880s were devoted to the profitable management of its holdings, the selling of land being less attractive on a falling market. In the 1890s and the first decade of this century, the company disposed of its agricultural holdings in New Zealand, a number being acquired by the Government as part of the land for settlement scheme, the balance of the Levels estate being so acquired in 1903.