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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  • Most, if not all, of the marble for the Parliament buildings was taken down the Takaka Hill from the quarry to Sandy Bay by jigline and not to Tarakohe wharf. See Rocks & Hard places. Some marble may have been sent from the Sunnyside Marble Works in West Takaka over the Tarakohe wharf to Wellington

    Posted by Mac Harwood, ()

  • There was a school at Tarakohe in 1920, long before 1956, when I think the building may have been renewed. It is now a Maori Centre. I used to live in the area in the 1960's

    Posted by Mac Harwood, ()

  • I lived in Tarakohe as a child as my father was an engineer working on an expansion of the works. I have a lot of his photos of the construction.

    Posted by Bev Thornley , ()

  • There is veryl ittle available on the Lee Valley cement plant, when it started, what it did, etc.
    The Lee Valley cement plant closed in 1998 (not 'the same year' = 1988). See http://www.goldenbay.co.nz/mainmenu30/page71/Company+Profile.html

    Posted by Nigel Isaacs, ()

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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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