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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.




Following the stimulus given to trade and development by Vogel's lavish expenditure on public works and immigration, and the concurrent period of good prices for the colony's staple products, there came the world depression of the 1880s which brought widespread unemployment and hardship to New Zealand. The pastoral industry was in a particularly bad way, wool and tallow being its only exportable products. After shearing, it was not uncommon for old and inferior sheep to meet the fate of the Gadarene swine. Sheep were kept during the flush of grass and then boiled down for tallow. Boiling-down plants became prominent features of many big sheep stations. Often shorn sheep were sold by the score because they had scarcely any value per head. The development of refrigerating machinery did much to solve the meat problem for the New Zealand pastoralists and the British consumer alike. Following the success of experimental shipments of frozen meat from the Argentine in 1877 and from Australia in 1879, the New Zealand and Australian Land Co. arranged a trial shipment from Port Chalmers in 1882. The vessel selected was the Albion Line's clipper ship Dunedin, specially fitted with insulated chambers and refrigerating machinery. She loaded some 130 tons of meat (about 4,000 carcasses), which was frozen on board, and sailed from Port Chalmers on 15 February 1882. After a passage of 98 days the Dunedin arrived in London on 24 May with her cargo in sound condition, and within a fortnight the whole shipment had been sold at good prices. A second shipment soon followed in the New Zealand Shipping Co.'s Mataura. Within a year a number of other sailing ships were fitted with refrigerators and steamers were chartered or built to meet the growing demand for space for shipping frozen meat.