140th anniversary celebrations paused – but not cancelled

It may have been postponed, but it will happen. That’s the message around the mini-symposium The Faces Behind the Big Idea which was planned for February 15 to celebrate the 140th anniversary of New Zealand’s first shipment of frozen export meat from Port Chalmers to London in 1882.

Totara Estate slaughter house building with old farming equipment in the foreground.
Totara Estate - the place where the first shipment of frozen meat from New Zealand was slaughtered.expand/collapse

The historic symposium has been postponed to a later date due to concerns about Covid 19.

The stories – and the 140th anniversary itself – are too important to be sidetracked however according to Scott Elliffe of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

“We are committing to rescheduling the symposium in some form, whether in its original format at a later date, or digitally, to give it the prominence it deserves,” he says.

“We’ll be making a decision on this in the near future and ensure that it is widely publicised as there has been, understandably, a tremendous amount of interest in the symposium by a wide range of people.”

Three local historians – George Berry, Noel Crawford and Marise Martin – have specialist expertise in different areas of research around the key people involved in the first frozen export meat shipment, and were to present papers for the anniversary symposium.

Their work will not go to waste according to Scott, who acknowledged the importance of their research in increasing our understanding of the events and personalities behind our first export of frozen meat.

“The success of this initiative led to the growth of two multi-billion dollar industries that have created almost unimaginable wealth for this country over the past 14 decades,” says Scott.

“It signalled a new era of economic prosperity for New Zealand, and its importance to us as a country cannot be overstated. The story of the key people behind this epoch-making event is not widely known, however, and the symposium – when it happens – will help address that.”

Details of the rescheduled symposium will be announced in the coming months.

- John O'Hare