Tarakohe Cement


Golden Bay / Mohua, now known for its pristine coastline and National Parks, was once home to a wide range of industries, many of which have now gone. The Tarakohe Cement works is one these industries.

Cement works at Tarakohe, 1911 [Sydney Charles Smith] Alexander Turnbull Library. 1/1-019754-G. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=26826
Click image to enlarge

Early surveys in Golden Bay / Mohua showed there were abundant materials for the production of Portland cement1, with a 30 metre thick belt of tertiary arenaceous limestone extending over about 24 square km at Tarakohe.2

While there had been attempts to get a cement factory up and running in the late 1800s, it wasn't until 1908 that some Nelson and Wellington businessmen established the Golden Bay Cement Company with capital of £60,000.3  No doubt they were keen to profit from the building and public works boom in New Zealand at the time.4

A timber wharf was built in 1910 and cement production was underway by November 1911.5  The first cement was loaded onto a small boat by men standing up to their waists in the sea, then rowed out to the SS Kaitoa.6 In strong onshore winds, vessels departing Tarakohe wharf hauled themselves out to sea by passing a rope through a ring on a buoy.7

A close knit community formed around the cement works. Initially a boarding house, office and manager's office were built and single men and a few families lived under canvas. The Pōhara Hall, funded by the Cement Workers Union and built in 1924, was a popular venue for movies and social events and the Nelson Education Board built a small school in 1956.8

The cement works struggled through the Great Depression: "The Golden Bay cement works, after a period of idleness of nearly two years is once again in full swing at Tarako'he. The ever-increasing demand for cement in the erection of modern buildings finds the Dominion prepared with three payable deposits, one in the north, one in Otago, and the other at Golden Bay," reported the Evening Post in 1923.9

Group in front of buildings at Tarakohe Cement Works, Tasman District, [ca 1939]. Alexander Turnbull Library. 1/2-009144-F http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=41194
Click image  to enlarge

In June, 1929, the Murchison Earthquake ripped limestone from the cliffs which crashed onto the cement works' powerhouse and killed an engineer.10

The company was still not up to full capacity by the start of World War 2 and, in 1949, the New Zealand Government exhorted the cement industry to greater production to help the country get back on its feet.11

Transporting cement around New Zealand was expensive and, in 1955, the M.V. Golden Bay was launched and bulk shipment of cement began.12  The slightly larger Ligar Bay was commissioned in 1964, and the two vessels carried their heavy cargo to Deep Cove, Fiordland, where it was offloaded for the Manapouri Hydro Scheme.13

Wharfside depot installations were built at Wellington, Whanganui and New Plymouth to receive the bulk cement. The Golden Bay Cement Co also had its own fleet of bulk cement trucks, the largest of which could carry 23 tonnes.14

Sales of cement reached a peak in the mid-1970s and the company expanded production to 400,000 tonnes. The new port was very busy for more than eight years15 until the end of the 1970s when the country's Think Big projects, hydro dams, high rise buildings and huge sewerage schemes were completed. 16

In 1983, the company gained a contract to supply 96,000 tonnes of cement to the huge Clyde Dam project.17  However the writing was on the wall and The Golden Bay Cement Company merged with Wilson's Portland Cement in 1983.  By 1985, redundancies saw the staff of 400 employees reduced to 150 workers.

New owners, Fletcher Challenge, closed the works on 13 September 1988.18 The small Lee Valley plant was closed in 1998. The company is still operating as Golden Bay Cement today, but its manufacturing operations have been concentrated at Portland, 8km south of Whangarei.

After working 80 years around the clock, the Tarakohe works fell silent. Demand had been falling since 1974 and the loss of import protection was the last straw. The closure of the factory was a major blow to Golden Bay / Mohua.19  

Man loading a railway truck at Golden Bay Cement Works, Tarakohe,[Thelma Rene Kent, ca 1939] Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-009146-F http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=41198
Click image to enlarge

The port continued to operate and in 1994, the Tasman District Council bought the harbour facilities for $275,000, expanding them to meet the needs of recreational boaties, commercial fishermen and operators.20

Industrial Golden Bay / Mohua

At one time, it seemed that Golden Bay / Mohua would develop into a significant industrial area. "With improved roads and modern motor traffic, coupled with the introduction of large numbers of public works and industrial workers, the whole future outlook of Golden Bay is rapidly undergoing a complete change. The coming of the iron and steel works, the opening of large asbestos deposits and the introduction of hydro-electric power must certainly provide the district with an industrial complex in place of the present farming one," The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 7 (October 2, 1939).


Updated February 15, 2022

Sources used in this story

  1. Smith, J. H. (2002). Tarakohe: Golden Bay Cement works 1908-1988. Tākaka, New Zealand. p.3.
  2. Newport, J. N. W. (1975). Golden Bay: one hundred years of local government. Takaka, New Zealand: Golden Bay County Council, p. 107.
  3. Newport, J.N.W. (1980) . Some Golden Bay Industries (Continued). Nelson Historical Society Journal 3(6). 
  4. McAloon, Jim. (1997) Nelson: A Regional History. Cape Catley Ltd, p. 128.
  5. Newport (1975), p. 90.
  6. Smith, p.6.
  7. Tasman Ports Timeline (Prow Story).
  8. Smith, p. 21-23.
  9. Work Resumed. (1923, September 13). Evening Post, p.10.
  10. Neal, T., &  A. Dunn (Ed.). (2006).Tarakohe: a community port. Richmond, New Zealand: Tasman District Council, p.12.
  11. Smith, p. 9-10.
  12. Blincoe, P (2001). Yesterdays of Golden Bay: glimpses of past industries and PWD camps. Collingwood, New Zealand: Blincoe Publishing, p. 86.
  13. Neal, T., &  A. Dunn (Ed.) p. 19.
  14. Blincoe, p.86.
  15. Smith, p.29.
  16. Smith, p.34.
  17. Smith, p.18.
  18. Blincoe, p.86.
  19. McAloon, p. 229.
  20. Tasman Ports Timeline.

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  • A man (whose name I know) died in a silo about 1946. My father was in the silo with him.

    According to a Nelson Evening Mail article dated July 2 1945, A man was tragically killed at the cement works on June 30th 1945. Ed. You can read this article on Papers Past: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NEM19450702.2.54

    Posted by Henry Barnes, 28/01/2017 8:58am (7 years ago)

  • I am disappointed that you have chosen to ignore the facts when writing about cement production in Tarakohe. My Grandfather James Alexander McLaren collected samples in the Takaka region and took them to Thames and had them analysed at the Thames School of Mines. He cycled through the Hawkes Bay and sought monetry support from Wealty farmers. He managed the first cement works. He was also responsible for getting probably the first provincial Bank in NZ established in the area to ease the problem of paying quite a large work force. He was also manager of the Hatuma Lime company. I had shares passed down to me in that company and a few years back they celebrated their centenary and In the book produced for the occasion it stated that James McLaren was probably the only person in NZ at the beginning who knew the process of making cement. He was also involved in Cement Production on Limestone Island. In 1904 he was presented a gold watch has "Presented To James McLaren by the citizens of Whangarei 1904." Ed. We were not aware of this information and it is good to have it. Thank you

    Posted by JAMES MCLAREN, 05/11/2016 9:28am (7 years ago)

  • Further to the comments by C Peter Ostenfeld, and to clarify - there were two Golden Bay cement ships named mv 'Golden Bay'. mv 'Golden Bay' I (1954 - 1976, scrapped 1982 as RYUJIN MARU), is the ship Conrad Ostenfeld stood by the building and cement trials of in Leith, Scotland, in 1953-54. The ship arrived in NZ in 1955, and was employed solely doing coastal voyages during it's life in New Zealand until being sold to Asian interests in 1976.
    Then came dev 'Ligar Bay (built in Leith at the same Henry Robb's yard in 1964, and transferred back to Blue Circle Cement, London, in 1979).
    The keel for mv 'Golden Bay' II was laid on May 4th 1978 as Yard 572 at the Robb-Caledon yard in Dundee, Scotland. Neil Ostenfeld stood by the building of this ship and was master on many of the 47 trips this vessel completed between Nelson/Tarakohe to Brisbane, Australia, between 1981 and August 1984. Neil retired in 1984, and I sailed many trips with him on both the first and second 'Golden Bay' between 1972 and 1984.
    Since the closure of the Tarakohe Cement Works in 1988, the second mv 'Golden Bay has operated from the Golden Bay Cement works at Portland, near Oakleigh village, just south of Whangarei. This works had been operated for many years as Wilson's Cement Works, before Golden Bay and Wilsons merged their operations in 1983.
    In 1990, the Golden Bay II did another international voyage, this time to bring a trial load of cement back to NZ from the Goliath Cement depot at Devonport, Tasmania.
    At the time of writing these notes (23.08.2016), I am still on mv Golden Bay II, but the ship is to finish up in early 2017, when it will be replaced by a 9,000 deadweight tonne self-discharging bulk cement carrier being built by Swires Shipping (Singapore) and will also be operated by them.
    From 1974 to 1985 (when the ship was scrapped in Auckland), Golden Bay Cement also operated another self-discharging bulk cement ship out of Tarakohe. This was the dev 'John Wilson', that had been built for Wilson's Cement in 1960, also at the Henry Robb's shipyard in Leith, Scotland. I sailed frequently on this ship when Neil Ostenfeld was master.
    It was years after the closure of the Tarakohe Cement Works that I discovered my mother had been born in Takaka in 1921. I had more of a connection to the area than I ever knew when I was running from the port.

    Posted by Tony Skilton, 23/08/2016 11:08pm (7 years ago)

  • Morena, I've just found your site. Nicely laid out, sources identified (thanks!), and great content. Well done all who worked on it - I will definitely be back to use it again.

    Posted by Megan Cook, 05/09/2015 6:46am (8 years ago)

  • My late father, V C Ostenfeld was seconded from the Anchor Company to the newly established Golden Bay Shipping company and went to Scotland to supervise the construction of the MV Golden Bay, a specialist cement carrier and the first, I believe, of her type. She was designed to load cement in bulk and discharge it through a system of blowers. Dad was in Scotland for about a year before the vessel's teething troubles were sorted out and he brought her to New Zealand where he remained in command of her. He retired shortly before his death in 1962 and his youngest son, my late brother, Neil, assumed the command, trading not only around the New Zealand coast but also to Australia until he too retired. I also traded to Tarakoe, loading cement in bags, some years prior to all of this in the auxiliary scow, Pearl Kasper

    Posted by C Peter Ostenfeld, 08/08/2014 5:46pm (9 years ago)

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Further sources - Tarakohe Cement




  • An Assessment of the social and economic impact of the possible closure of the Golden Bay Cement Works at Tarakohe : a report to the Minister of Regional Development (1985) Wellington [N.Z.] : Town and Country Planning Directorate, Ministry of Works and Development
  • Reilly, C., B. Haile & K. Delany (2008) Golden Bay Cement Company 1940s to 1950s [DVD]. Tākaka, Golden Bay: Golden Bay High School Home & School Association.

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