Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former)

2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson, Auckland

  • Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former), Auckland. Distillery tower and cooperage.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 25/01/2022.
  • Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former), Auckland. Garage, front elevation (left) and rear elevation (right).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 25/01/2022.
  • Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former), Auckland. Homestead, front elevation (left) and rear elevation (right) .
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 25/01/2022.
  • Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former), Auckland. Homestead, showing interior features at ground floor level .
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 25/01/2022.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 9336 Date Entered 30th June 2022 Date of Effect 20th July 2022

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Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lots 3 and 8 DP 208135 (RTs NA136C/100, NA136C/103), North Auckland Land District, and the buildings and structures known as Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former), thereon, and the following chattels: large wooden barrels x 3; small wooden barrels x 6; still rectifying column remnant; metal open-slat trays x 2; metal machinery remnants x 3 (wheels x 2 and cog); loose door x 1; Corban’s Wines Price List board x 1; boxes x 7 with bottle cartons, posters, bank books and advertisements; Cognac Barnett sign; and Golden Apple Cider Company wooden box x 1. Extent also includes pear trees x 3; pōhutukawa x 1; olive trees x 2; and numerous mature poplar, oak, pine and macrocarpa trees beside Te Wai ō Panuku. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Auckland Council

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Lots 3 and 8 DP 208135 (RTs NA136C/100, NA136C/103), North Auckland Land District

Location description

NZTM Easting: 1745161.0 NZTM Northing: 5917512.5

Address given in the nomination form was 426 Great North Road, Henderson. Note that the North Auckland Railway Line separates the property from the Great North Road.

Summaryopen/close

Situated in what was once the rural outskirts of Auckland, Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) was for much of its life the leading wine producer - and in latter years, main exporter of wine - in Aotearoa New Zealand. Founded in 1902 by notable winemaking pioneers from Lebanon, Assid Abraham (A.A) Corban and his family, it has outstanding significance for demonstrating the key contribution of migrants from outside northern Europe in the development of this country’s wine industry from small-scale production to its current prominent position in the national economy. Initially operating as an artisanal enterprise, it became a major industrial facility in the 1940s at the heart of the most intensively occupied winemaking district in the country. At the forefront of New Zealand winemaking for several more decades, the current site retains a wide range of notable features including an early purpose-built winery; rare example of a distillery tower and associated technology; and unusually-designed homestead displaying Lebanese influences – as well as plantings and other elements reflecting viticultural and orcharding practices; and later industrial elements that graphically demonstrate transformation into a major enterprise with international reach.

The site lies beside Te Wai ō Panuku, a watercourse of importance to tangata whenua including Te Kawerau ā Maki. According to Te Kawerau accounts, this stream embodies the spiritual essence of the ancestor Panuku, flowing from the sacred maunga Parekura – named after her husband. It is also associated with Pareira, a niece of the early ancestor and voyager Toi Te Huatahi, and formed a valuable food and other resource for initial peoples. After European entrepreneurs established Henderson’s Mill to convert kauri forests to timber in the mid-nineteenth century, logs were flushed down its waters utilising the country’s first re-usable driving dams. From at least 1890-1, the current site held what was probably the first successful open-air grape growing business in the Henderson district, operated by Charles Caldwell.

In 1902, Caldwell’s property was obtained by recent Lebanese migrants A.A. and Najibie Corban, who with their extended family developed it as Mt Lebanon Vineyards. They soon built a three-level winery (1903-7) for artisanal production and embarked on selling wine despatched along the adjoining North Island Main Trunk railway line. Wine production, vine and orchard tending, and mixed smallholding were undertaken by the extended Corban household in traditional Lebanese manner. Expanding rapidly in spite of the prohibition movement, the site developed into the country’s largest vineyard and producer by the early 1920s. Winery extensions (1920s), a large timber homestead for multi-generational family occupation (1923-4) and a three-vehicle concrete garage (1924) directly reflected this success. After 1941, second-generation family members undertook factory-scale expansion, creating a new brick and concrete winery (1941) and distillery (pre-1948) as home demand grew during the Second World War (1939-45). Further growth in the late 1950s included large bottling facilities (1959-60).

The enterprise introduced significant innovations including refrigeration, stainless steel tanks (1958); and temperature-controlled fermentation (1962). During the 1960s and 1970s, the business was at the forefront of New Zealand’s evolution into an international producer, pioneering new table wines and undertaking the first major export of New Zealand wine (1963). Industrial-scale warehouses were built and extended (1963-78), and winery additions including tank farms erected (1967-72). Operations were expanded to new areas, including Poverty Bay and Marlborough – now major wine-producing regions. After being overtaken by Montana Wines and subsumed by the multinational Rothmans Industries, the complex closed in 1992 – although a sales and despatch presence was maintained until 2000. Now also incorporating the relocated St Michael’s Anglican Church (1914), the complex is used as an arts centre, including for urban Māori and Pacific Island communities.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The place has high historical significance as the manufacturing centre and vineyard of the largest winemaker and viticulturalist in Aotearoa New Zealand for half a century. It is particularly important for its associations with the wine industry’s development from artisanal beginnings to expanded production for local markets, and then more highly industrialised production for international export. In its later development, it is closely linked with a shift in the focus of production from fortified wine products to table wines. It reflects the importance of family enterprise and entrepreneurship over an extended period as well as government support for the early winemaking industry in the early 1900s and more direct interventions through protectionism in the late 1930s and 1950s. It especially demonstrates the importance of west Auckland, and particularly Henderson, as the country’s most important viticultural and winemaking centre during much of the twentieth century, before large-scale expansion to other regions.

The place is specifically important for its long and close connections with A.A. Corban, a major figure in the history of New Zealand winemaking, and other prominent members of the Corban family. It is significant for reflecting Lebanese migration to New Zealand at the turn of the nineteenth century and the contribution of such migrants to this country’s development. It strongly demonstrates the importance of migrants from outside northern Europe to the evolution, growth and ultimate success of New Zealand’s wine industry – which now forms an important part of this country’s economy and identity.

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) demonstrates interesting aspects combining Lebanese tradition with colonial New Zealand and later approaches. Lebanese influences on building type, layout or use were, for example, utilised in conjunction with standard New Zealand building methods and materials – as with construction of the homestead for extended family living. The place is also historically significant for the first-known successful open-air production of grapes in the Henderson area – later the country’s most intensively occupied district for viticulture and wine production – which occurred under Charles Caldwell from at least 1890-1. The site’s more recent use as an arts and cultural centre also reflects the growth of west Auckland, including Henderson, as a major place of residence for urban Māori and Pasifika peoples.

Archaeological Significance or Value

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) has archaeological significance for the extent of its ability to provide information about winery construction and use through much of the twentieth century, and in particular shifts from artisanal to industrial production. It is a very uncommon surviving example of a winery complex with continuous occupation for the same purpose for almost a century, showing numerous phases of use. Several individual structures within the place are rare and well-preserved examples of specific building types.

These include the 1903-07 winery and 1940s still tower, both retaining significant features and components linked with their specific function. Archaeological significance may extend to potential in-ground deposits linked with fruit production and residential occupation prior to arrival of the Corban family in 1902, as well as viticulture, orcharding and other processes after that date.

The place is archaeologically significant for the extent to which it allows the physical and spatial development of wineries – including their relationships with surrounding vineyard and orchard spaces, transportation networks, and other resources – to be examined. In addition to structures and likely in-ground deposits, the place retains numerous significant plantings linked with viticulture, orcharding and conscious beautification of the grounds.

Technological Significance or Value

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) is significant for the extent to which it reflects technological change in the New Zealand winemaking industry, from hand production assisted by gravity to large-scale industrial manufacture. Notable shifts in storage technology are demonstrated through surviving barrel chattels, large concrete vats and various bases for circular, stainless steel tanks. Corban’s Winery was at the forefront of technological change in the winemaking industry, including the introduction of stainless steel storage. The place retains extensive pipework, vats and other material linked with use of a 1940s industrial still – rare surviving technology connected with the production of fortified wine, the country’s main winery product for much of the twentieth century.

Cultural Significance or Value

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) has high cultural significance for the strength and longevity of its connections with the New Zealand Lebanese community. The Corban family, who owned and occupied the place for nearly 80 years were prominent members of the Lebanese migrant community in Aotearoa New Zealand. The place reflects significant aspects of Lebanese culture, including viticulture, winemaking and the centrality of extended-family life. It continues to be valued as important by the New Zealand Lebanese community, including the extended Corbans family.

Through its recent use as an arts centre, the place has acquired cultural significance for its connections with the production of community and other artwork, including that linked with Māori and Pasifika communities.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The place has special or outstanding significance for the extent to which it reflects the evolution of winemaking from artisan production to large-scale industrial manufacture in twentieth-century New Zealand. It is one of very few remaining places in this country that embody the continuous development of viticultural practice and associated winemaking from vineyard to industrial winery between the very early 1900s and late twentieth century. It is especially important for the extent to which it reflects the key contribution of migrants from outside northern Europe to New Zealand winemaking, and west Auckland’s leading role in that industry prior to the 1970s. It is an outstanding example of the contribution of Lebanese New Zealanders to the economic and broader development of Aotearoa New Zealand, including transformation of the winemaking industry into its current prominent position in this country’s life.

The place’s reflection of cultural diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand extends to local peoples of Dalmatian origin, who planted surviving olive trees on the property. It also encompasses urban Māori and Pasifika communities who have utilised the site as a place of artistic and cultural expression for more than two decades. Through features such as permanent artworks and a catchment pond, the place additionally reflects aspects of the Twin Streams scheme - this country’s largest stream restoration project when undertaken in the early 2000s.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The place has special significance for its long and close associations with A.A. Corban, a major figure in the history of New Zealand winemaking. With the assistance of his wife Najibie, children and other family members, A.A. Corban started the enterprise and oversaw its development into the country’s largest winery and vineyard – a position that it retained for half a century. Several other members of the Corban family are significant for their contributions to the winemaking industry, and other aspects of New Zealand life. They include Alex Corban, awarded an Order of the British Empire medal for his contributions to viticulture.

The place is also significant for its connections with Romeo Bragato – considered the single most important individual in the evolution of early New Zealand winemaking. Bragato visited the site on several occasions and regarded it to be ‘the model vineyard of New Zealand and an object lesson to vinegrowers’. Through its expansion in the 1940s, the place is also linked with the varied impacts of the Second World War. Its changing ownership from family to multinational company and focus on international export in the latter twentieth century reflects the impacts of globalised ideas and trends on the New Zealand economy and society.

The place also has connections with notable artists of culturally diverse backgrounds through its more recent use as an arts centre. These include the renowned New Zealand-based Sāmoan painter and sculptor, Fatu Feu’u.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The place has special potential to provide knowledge about important aspects of New Zealand history, including the evolution of winemaking and winery complexes throughout much of the twentieth century and the particular approaches and experiences of New Zealand Lebanese migrants. This is due to the variety and quality of built fabric that can be investigated through archaeological means; the potential extent of in-ground deposits that may be associated with that fabric; and the survival of significant related plantings. This potential is strongly enhanced by the survival of numerous associated artefacts connected with the Corban family – including chattels still retained on the site – and the unusually extensive nature of written and photographic archives from the early 1900s onwards that relate to the place. The latter include an important photographic collection of social and other life associated with winemaking by Khaleel Corban.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

The place has strong historical and ongoing meaning to the New Zealand Lebanese community. Due to its prominence as a successful commercial enterprise and enduring connections with a notable family, the Corban Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) can be considered a special or outstanding place in Aotearoa New Zealand associated with this community. Ongoing public esteem for the place is reflected in its purchase by a local authority for public use, and subsequent involvement of the Corban family in its administration. It is also demonstrated by the production of widespread literature about its history and importance.

Continuing community association and public esteem for the place is additionally provided through its role over more than two decades as a notable arts and cultural centre with strong links to Māori, Pasifika and other communities in west Auckland. Its esteem has been enhanced by close associations with the award-winning and large-scale Twin Streams project, which was strongly supported by local communities.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Publicly-owned and situated in a major suburban centre, Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) has special significance for its capacity to provide education about numerous matters of importance in New Zealand history. These include the evolution of New Zealand’s winemaking industry from humble beginnings to its current position of strength; the particular importance of migrants from outside northern Europe in this trajectory; and the overall contributions of Lebanese peoples to the economic and social development of Aotearoa New Zealand. It can also provide education about Henderson’s role as a major viticultural centre, and the importance of the surrounding landscape including Te Wai ō Panuku for peoples of diverse cultural origins.

(g) The technical accomplishment, value, or design of the place

The place demonstrates technical value in aspects of its specialised design for winemaking, and particularly in its demonstration of technological change through the twentieth century in the scale of wine production and storage. It also has technical value for design aspects that combine requirements linked to Lebanese cultural origins with colonial New Zealand and later approaches. For example, the 1923-4 homestead forms an unusual expression of a New Zealand villa that accommodates extended household living in its visual design and layout. The latter is a likely influence of traditional Lebanese culture, which prioritised household production by extended family units.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The place forms a relatively rare surviving winery complex dating to the early 1900s. It is even more uncommon as an example of such a place that was continuously used, added to and otherwise modified through much of the twentieth century – including for industrial-scale production. It contains an uncommon or rare early surviving winery building that may the earliest intact purpose-built winery of private construction in the country. It also incorporates a rare or uncommon distillery tower linked with 1940s fortified wine production, which retains a quantity of distilling equipment and technology.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural area

The place is an important component of a wider historical and cultural area that is significant for its close associations with the development and success of Corban’s Winery, as well as conveying key aspects of the wider environmental and economic evolution of west Auckland, and Henderson in particular. Notable among the latter are changes in land use from sustainable utilisation of local resources in pre-European times to wide-scale, colonial-era timber exploitation, then orcharding and ultimately industrialised wine production for international export. Some of the latter provided Henderson with considerable prominence at a regional, and for a period national level.

In addition to Corban’s Winery, important components of the area include Te Wai ō Panuku - a significant ancestral feature, transport route and other resource for tangata whenua, as well as being closely linked with the exploitation of kauri timber by early European entrepreneurs and subsequent use by orchardists and viticulturalists for irrigating crops. Corban’s enterprise became successful due, in part, to its proximity to this water source, as well as major road and rail networks that facilitated supply and distribution. Within the immediate area, surviving components of the latter include Great North Road, Coronation Bridge, the North Island Main Trunk line and the former Henderson Railway Station and Platform. Additional associated components encompass the brick footing and concrete floor remnant of the 1913 store built by A.A. Corban to sell wine immediately outside the complex.

Summary of Significance or Values

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) has special or outstanding significance for reasons that include:

- the extent to which it reflects the evolution of winemaking from artisan production to large-scale industrial manufacture in twentieth-century New Zealand;

- the extent to which it reflects the key contribution of migrants from outside northern Europe to New Zealand winemaking, and west Auckland’s leading role in that industry prior to the 1970s;

- it constituting an outstanding example of the contribution of Lebanese New Zealanders to the economic and broader development of Aotearoa New Zealand, including transformation of the winemaking industry into its current prominent position in this country’s life;

- the length and closeness of its associations with A. A. Corban, a major figure in the history of New Zealand winemaking;

- the strength of its potential to provide knowledge about important aspects of New Zealand history, including the evolution of winemaking and winery complexes throughout much of the twentieth century and the particular approaches and experiences of New Zealand Lebanese migrants;

- the strength of its historical and ongoing meaning to the New Zealand Lebanese community; and

- the strength of its capacity to provide education about numerous matters of importance in New Zealand history. These include the evolution of New Zealand’s winemaking industry from humble beginnings to its current position of strength; the particular importance of migrants from outside northern Europe in this trajectory; and the overall contributions of Lebanese peoples to the economic and social development of Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Lewis Walker

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Historical Narrative

Early history

The site lies in the western part of the Tāmaki isthmus, close to its junction with Hikurangi or the Waitākere ranges. According to Te Kawerau ā Maki accounts, the forests and hills of Hikurangi were occupied by early peoples known as Terehu, or Patupaiarere. Streams flowing from the hills towards the Waitematā Harbour formed important transport routes as well as habitats for food and other resources. One of these waterways, Te Wai ō Panuku (the Ōpanuku Stream), bounds the current site.

Te Wai ō Panuku is associated with one of Te Kawerau’s earliest traditions, which records its connections with two ancestors of chiefly birth, Parekura and his wife Panuku, who had remained deeply in love throughout their lives. At their deaths, Parekura became a sacred maunga in Hikurangi bearing his name, while Panuku formed a stream embodying her spiritual essence, which flowed from this hill (and another important maunga, Rua ō Te Whenua) to Te Wai ō Pareira and the Waitematā harbour. Early use of Te Wai ō Panuku is indicated by its associations with Pareira, a niece of the early ancestor and voyager Toi Te Huatahi. The waterway connects Pareira’s main settlement at the mouth of Te Wai ō Pareira with seasonal foraging grounds upstream. The ongoing importance of such waterways to Te Kawerau ā Maki is reflected by a strategically important pā, Te Kōpua, beside Te Wai ō Pareira a relatively short distance to the east of the current site.

The area was later impacted by the movement of Ngāti Whātua peoples into Tāmaki, and the taua – or so-called Musket Wars – of the 1820s and 1830s. The heavily forested hills at the head of Te Wai ō Panuku and nearby streams soon made them desirable to early European entrepreneurs based in the nearby colonial capital at Auckland, initially founded in 1840. In 1844, the mercantile firm of Henderson and Macfarlane negotiated with Ngāti Whātua rangatira for extensive kauri-rich lands in the area, eventually establishing an industrial settlement at Henderson’s Mill (later Henderson) to convert this valuable resource into timber goods. Logs were flushed down Te Wai ō Panuku from Hikurangi to the mill using the first re-usable driving dams in the country. After the mill closed in the late 1860s, activity included kauri gum digging by both Māori and Pākehā workers, with a strong Māori presence retained at nearby Te Atatū. During the economic depression of the late 1880s and early 1890s, the timber company sold part of its over 10,000-acre holding as small orchard lots, ten to fifteen acres in size. Other parts were relinquished in the mid-1890s to the Bank of New Zealand Estates Company Limited and then the Assets Realisation Board before subdivision and sale.

In 1885, the circa nine-acre holding that later formed the nucleus of Corban’s Winery was purchased by Charles Caldwell in 1885. An adjoining twenty-acre lot, also later absorbed into the estate, was obtained from the Assets Realisation Board by Benjamin Cranwell in 1899, who on sold to its owner between 1900 and 1909, Christopher Hodgson. Situated just outside Henderson township, both properties came to reflect the settlement’s new focus on small-scale farming and fruit production. They were directly irrigated by Te Wai ō Panuku and also adjoined important communication routes formed by the Great North Road and the Auckland-Kaipara railway line, the latter fully completed in 1881. By 1902, the circa nine-acre lot contained a small (two-room) timber cottage, cowshed and fowlhouse; an apple orchard; and some American Isabella grapevines. The twenty-acre lot contained a two-room cottage as well as open grassland.

Caldwell had established his vineyard on the nine-acre property before 1890-1, when three tons ‘from a few small bushes’ were produced. The vines present in 1902 were almost certainly planted in 1891 from North American seeds imported by the government, and touted as being phylloxera-resistant. This enterprise was one of many small operations in nineteenth-century Aotearoa New Zealand, as settlers – often from migrant communities with cultural traditions of winemaking – sought to establish viticultural businesses using stock grapes introduced during early colonial encounters. Caldwell was among the first successful open-air grape producers in Henderson, an area that later became notable in New Zealand’s viticultural history. However, it was the purchase and use of Caldwell’s land by Lebanese migrants Assid (A.A.) and Najibie Corban in 1902 that helped propel Henderson into becoming a major winemaking area too.

Establishment of Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (1902-1909)

Renaming the holding ‘Mt Lebanon Vineyards’, the Corbans and their young family created New Zealand’s largest winery on the site within twenty years. For several decades, the property also functioned as a fruit and vegetable holding, and a focus for multi-generational family life in which Lebanese cultural traditions were observed. The Corbans formed part of a small wave of migrants from Lebanon who arrived during the long depression of the 1880s and 1890s, when traditional immigration from northern Europe was relatively low. Their subsequent success at Mt Lebanon occurred at a time of strengthening ties with the British Empire in the early 1900s, when high levels of discrimination against individuals of other cultural backgrounds occurred.

Assid Abraham Corban (1864-1941) had arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand from Lebanon in 1892. Born in Shweir or Choueir on the sides of Mount Lebanon, he was from a relatively well-to-do Christian Orthodox family that maintained small-scale vineyards and other land for mixed smallholding. He had also been employed as a stonemason, helping to build the Turkish fortress of Dura, and schools and other works in Shweir. Similarly to other New Zealand Lebanese who left their homeland due to expanding population pressure, Corban initially established a travelling business selling goods in provincial hinterlands, in this instance to Māori and other communities in the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty. Close connections between Mediterranean migrants and Māori were frequently forged at this time. Corban soon opened haberdashery shops in Waihī and Thames and then a jewellery, fancy goods and drapery business on Queen Street, Auckland, before being joined by his wife Najibie Tanyus Corban (née Ataia, c.1872-1957) in circa 1897 – an early stage in the chain migration of many relatives to this country.

The couple’s acquisition of the Mt Lebanon property formed a conscious expansion into vineyard and other crop production, directly reflecting traditional Lebanese approaches to householding. The family developed a mixed holding on the land before permanently moving into the pre-existing cottage on the site. Tended by Najibie, over four acres were established with vine cuttings, watered from Te Wai ō Panuku. Shelter and fruit trees, including peach and pear, were planted. In addition to quick crops grown between rows of vines and trees, oat and potato cultivation delivered immediate returns. Animals including cows, pigs, poultry and bees were kept. The household steadily expanded to encompass nine surviving children as well as, for a period, relatives Zelfah and Kalleem Corban.

Reflecting its importance to the enterprise, the first major building to be created was a three-storey winery. This was physically erected by A.A. Corban and other household members in 1903-7. Built into a slope close to the property’s main entrance from Great North Road, the new structure incorporated a brick cellar, and two additional floors of timber framed construction clad with corrugated iron. Its layout enabled wine to be produced at an artisanal scale, initially using hand-operated equipment. The loft was employed for grape crushing, the floor beneath it for fermenting, and the basement for wine maturation in barrels. As a multifunctional structure, its ground floor also included a store and bedrooms, and a front verandah doubled as a selling stall for produce. The family’s first commercial vintage was produced in 1908. Contemporary-built stables similarly reflected the importance of traditional power sources to the enterprise before the advent of mechanisation.

Corban’s establishment of Mt Lebanon coincided with a brief ‘golden flush’ of New Zealand winemaking. This was stimulated by the country’s first Liberal Government, who had asked the noted viticulturalist, Romeo Bragato (1858-1913) to report on the industry in 1901 and then appointed him to oversee its early experimental research station and winery at Te Kauwhata. Considered the single most important figure in early New Zealand winemaking, Bragato encouraged the adoption of disease-resistant vines and other practices. His appointment as government viticulturalist in 1902 coincided with both the establishment of Mt Lebanon Vineyards and a nearby holding belonging to Stipan Jelich, a migrant from Dalmatia (now part of Croatia) – collectively marking Henderson’s commercial winemaking beginnings.

Activity at Mt Lebanon was influenced by homeland practices, including a focus on extended family labour and imported items such as Lebanese birdlime. Traditional approaches were supplemented by innovation, including experimentation with new grape varieties and wire-mesh vine protection – the latter said to represent its first use in New Zealand and possibly internationally. The Corbans’ regularly visited the research station at Te Kauwhata. Bragato himself visited the property on several occasions, evidently describing it as ‘the model vineyard of New Zealand and an object lesson to vinegrowers’.

In 1909 – when Bragato left government employment – vineyards covered some 668 acres in New Zealand, but subsequently declined as the country’s temperance movement grew in strength. In 1908 Henderson, including Mt Lebanon, became a No-License area as part of the Mt Eden district, making it illegal to sell wine on Corban’s property.

Expansion of the property (1909-1940)

In contrast to general vineyard decline, A.A. Corban purchased the 20-acre holding to the north owned by Christopher Hodgson, tripling the size of Mt Lebanon (1909). He simultaneously created a store for direct sale of his new vintage immediately to the east of the railway line, which lay just outside the No-License district boundary. In 1913, he erected a new brick facility for this purpose. Sales were also despatched to licensed districts by rail. By 1915, Mt Lebanon was selling red wine, port, claret and sherry, all medal winners at the 1913-14 Auckland Exhibition. Profits increased as competitors abandoned their vineyards and wine prices rose. Corban’s growing reputation also meant that longer-matured wines with greater premiums could be marketed, although the devastating impacts of phylloxera on his vines during the First World War (1914-18) subsequently led to a greater focus on fortified wine – in common with other producers.

By the early 1920s, Mt Lebanon had become New Zealand’s largest vineyard and leading wine-producer, displacing manufacturers in Hawke’s Bay. Signs of success by 1925 included extensions to the initial winery and stables, and a large nursery for young vines beside Te Wai ō Panuku. More emphatically, a large timber homestead was erected in 1923-4. This seventeen-room structure was specifically created to accommodate a multi-generational household along Lebanese family lines, incorporating rooms for A.A. and Najibie Corban; and their offspring and partners; as well as guests and other extended family members. Although visually influenced by villa design, distinctive features such as two-storey construction into a steep slope and an arched brick front entrance evoked Lebanese origins. Grape motif leadlight windows similarly formed a reminder of trailing Lebanese vines.

Also constructed was a three-bay, reinforced concrete garage and office with underlying basement laundry and dairy (1924). This reflected motorised technology for transport and delivery, although mechanisation of vineyard work did not arrive until 1934, during the Great Depression.

In 1929, the contribution of A.A. and Najibie Corban’s children, now mostly married, was acknowledged through adoption of a partnership: A.A. Corban and Sons. The latter undertook specialised roles, with Khaleel focussing on distribution and public relations, Wadier winemaking, Annis wholesaling and retailing, and Najib viticulture. Many household activities were captured on film by Khaleel Corban (1889-1975), a gifted photographer – forming a rare and important archive of life linked with winemaking. The family was active in the local community, including as members of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, erected immediately across Great North Road as a place of Anglican worship in 1914 – the Corbans’ Greek Orthodox beliefs being most closely affiliated with Anglicanism in New Zealand. Wadier Corban (1891-1982) became chair of the Viticultural Association of New Zealand in 1917 before prominent and enduring involvements as a local body politician. Annis Corban (1905-1994), ultimately became an Oddfellows’ New Zealand Grand Master. In later life, Khaleel co-founded the Lebanese Society of New Zealand.

During the Great Depression, Corban’s wines continued to be sold nationally. To create a range of products, 60-70 grape varieties were grown. In 1939, Corban’s distribution business advertised itself as ‘Oldest Firm, Oldest Wines, Largest Vineyards. The only Gold Medalists’. From this time west Auckland, and Henderson in particular, developed into the most concentrated winemaking district in the country, especially for settlers from Dalmatia – with the Corban family assisting new winemakers with advice and vine cuttings.

A.A. Corban and Sons Winery (1941-1963)

A second period of national expansion for the winemaking industry was stimulated by protectionist measures introduced by the first Labour Government in 1938, and advent of the Second World War (1939-45). In Henderson, overall wine acreage and production increased threefold between 1940 and 1950. Mt Lebanon Vineyards itself almost trebled in size between 1938 and 1942. During this period, the business fully passed into second-generation hands after the death of A. A. Corban, ‘one of New Zealand's wine-making giants’. His funeral, in 1941, was held in St Michael’s Church.

As the country’s leading manufacturer, Corban’s embarked on expanded, factory-based production in new industrial winery and distillery facilities to the northwest of the earlier winery and stables. Probably erected soon after November 1941, the large purpose-built winery differed from previous structures in being architect-conceived and of permanent materials. Designed by Auckland-based Lewis Walker, the brick and concrete building was intended to be a showpiece, with colonnaded northeast and southwest facades. Internally, it contained separate wine fermenting and storage areas. The latter incorporated rows of large concrete vats that were more hardwearing, better insulated and cheaper than the wooden barrels of the 1903-7 cellar. They were also more aligned with bulk production.

A tall distillery tower with attached cooperage and brick-built barrel store was also erected beside the railway line. The barrel store was built sometime after 1935, and possibly before the distillery, which may have been erected in 1943-4. Within the distillery, a large industrial still produced rectified grape spirit for fortified wine – the business’ main product, catering to northern European rather than Mediterranean tastes. The 1903-7 winery was converted to offices, and expanded for packaging and other purposes. In 1953, the distillery tower was lit up for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation tour, emphasising the business’ general aptitude for advertising.

Most Corban family members moved to their own residences, although the homestead remained occupied by Najibie Corban as matriarch until 1957. Her daughter Zealandia and husband Caliel Khouri continued to reside there until 1959. Subsequently, the complex became an entirely commercial operation linked with winemaking, although the house remained in use for family events and reunions until the 1970s. Further industrial expansion stimulated by import restrictions in 1958 involved rebuilding earlier extensions as a four-gabled bottling plant in 1959-60, extended in 1963-4. A large warehouse for wine maturation in barrels was also built in 1962 – the same year that the firm produced the country’s first commercial flor sherry and the earliest large commercial quantities of naturally sparkling wine.

Throughout this period, the business introduced important technological innovations, particularly influenced by third-generation Alex Corban (1934-2014), who later gained an Order of the British Empire medal for services to viticulture. Pioneering developments have been considered to include ‘the use of cultured yeast (1949); refrigeration; stainless steel tanks (1958); pneumatic presses (1958) and temperature controlled fermentation (1962)’.

Corbans Wines and Rothmans Industries Winery (1963-92)

Major changes in the winemaking industry took place from the 1960s, ultimately leading to its transformation into a major contributor to New Zealand’s economy and identity as a ‘modern’, globally connected nation. Winemaking expanded to increasingly focus on table wine, regions outside Auckland and wine exportation to an international market. Becoming a private company, Corbans Wines Limited, in 1963 the business was at the forefront of these developments, for example undertaking the first major export of New Zealand wine in that same year. Prizewinning new table wines included Riverlea Riesling and Pinot Chardonnay.

The winery’s production increased in response to rising competition, especially from Montana Wines founded in 1961. Cellar capacity vastly increased with the 1962 warehousing successively expanded between 1964 and the mid-1970s. A winery addition was also erected in 1967, and extended in 1969 and 1972, incorporating stainless steel tanks. Extensive land purchase elsewhere in Auckland and new regions such as Poverty Bay led to vineyard ownership of 850 acres – nearly a quarter of the national total in 1970. By this time, Corban’s vineyard operations had moved from Mt Lebanon.

During the 1970s, Corbans and Montana effectively formed a national duopoly although the latter gained pre-eminence. To compete, Corbans sought loans from parties that included the multinational Rothmans Industries. By 1975 Rothmans held a majority shareholding, and direct family ownership soon ceased. The new controlling business, still bearing Corban’s name, upgraded facilities for premium-quality table wines and in 1981 was by far the largest exporter of wines from New Zealand. As with other winemakers, however, it rapidly shifted operations elsewhere with the enormous expansion of vineyards in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough. After further warehouse expansion in 1978, changes at the winery were limited but included removal of the original brick-arch entrance to the homestead – by now used as offices.

Rothmans closed the winery in 1992, selling the property to Waitakere City Council, although the business retained a symbolic presence until 2000 – when it was purchased by Montana. During this period, it maintained sales and despatch from offices in the house, 1903-7 winery building and garage.

Use as an Arts and Cultural Centre (2001 onwards)

After the business and associated property had passed from family ownership, the Corbans’ contribution to its community and broader New Zealand society was highlighted in several contemporary publications. Aware of their legacy, the Corban family retained important archives of written, photographic and artifactual material, as well as ongoing interest in the Mt Lebanon site. By this time, there were some 5000 descendants of Lebanese migrants in this country. A second wave of Lebanese migration to Aotearoa New Zealand also occurred in 1975-90.

Between 1992 and the late 1990s, the Mt Lebanon property was administered by a Council-established body, Corbans Winery Estate Trust, which included Corban family members. In 2001, the Council-formed Waitakere Arts and Cultural Development Trust took a lease on many of the buildings for the creation of the Corban Estate Arts Centre (CEAC). During the 1950s and 1960s, substantial low-cost housing had been created in Henderson as Auckland expanded, and Māori and Pasifika peoples had increasingly moved to the area. The CEAC used the complex for arts-based activities involving these and other communities.

Subsequent changes to the homestead accommodated offices, galleries and meeting rooms (2002); and the 1941 winery was run as a Pacific Island Cultural Centre. In 2004, the latter was damaged by fire and demolished the following year, although its concrete vats were retained. This followed earlier removal of much of the 1967-72 winery addition, although tank farm bases and other features were similarly kept. St Michael’s Church was moved a short distance from Great North Road onto the property (2002) and repositioned again in 2005. In 2021, the nearby brick wine depot erected by the Corban business in 1913 was dismantled following a motor accident.

Projects reflecting the complex’s ongoing importance to local communities, including Māori and Pasifika peoples, included its incorporation into a network of paths, cycleways and other features such as Māori medicinal and flax-weaving gardens linked with the award-winning Twin Streams scheme. The latter formed the largest stream restoration exercise in the country and encompassed strong community involvement – including through the installation of permanent artwork and other activities undertaken on the site. These directly reflected the cultural importance of the wider area to the community and its connections with diverse peoples. As a notable and long-standing arts centre, significant works have been created or displayed within the complex, including sculptures and paintings by the prominent Sāmoan New Zealand artist Fatu Feu’u. Notable local events have encompassed heritage and arts festivals, including for children.

The complex currently (2022) remains in use as an active community centre, housing art galleries as well as studio space for resident artists, and facilities for numerous artistic and cultural organisations.

Physical Description

Context

Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards (Former) is situated in Henderson, a traditionally working-class residential suburb in west Auckland. The site is located immediately to the west of Henderson’s main commercial centre, adjoining several elements that have historically formed key parts of the area’s transport and communication network. These include the North Island Main Trunk (NIMT) railway line, Great North Road and Te Wai ō Panuku or Ōpanuku Stream - a feature of the pre-European Māori landscape. Beside Te Wai ō Panuku are the recently created Ōpanuku and Ōpanuku Stream Paths, offering direct pedestrian and cycleway access to the Corban’s Winery site. To the west, on land formerly forming part of the winery estate, is an area of residential housing created in relatively recent times. To the south is open ground forming Ōpanuku Reserve and Henderson Park.

Te Wai ō Panuku forms part of a wider landscape with ancestral Māori associations. Recorded pre-European archaeological sites in the area include shell midden beside Te Wai ō Pareira, near its confluence with Te Wai ō Panuku. Other formally recognised heritage in Henderson includes the Railway Station and Platform (Former) (List No.7538, Category 2 historic place); and Swan’s Arch (List No.5429, Category 2 historic place). Places identified as significant by the local council additionally encompass examples linked with the area’s history of industrial and horticultural production, including at least one other than the winery that is specifically linked with the Corban family: the Khaleel Corban residence at 56 Sturges Road. Another scheduled place connected with Corban’s Winery – its former depot beside Great North Road – has been recently demolished, although its brick footings and internal floor survive. The scheduled Coronation Bridge on Great North Road, close to Corban’s Winery, remains.

The Site

The site covers an irregular area of approximately 7 hectares (17.3 acres). It is bounded by the North Island Main Trunk railway line to the north, Te Wai ō Panuku to the south and east, and Mt Lebanon Lane to the west. The main built components of the complex lie within the northern and central parts of the site and can be divided into two conceptual parts: early residential and administrative elements in the northeast corner and numerous former industrial components to their west. A building relocated from elsewhere in Henderson, the Church of St Michael and All Angels, is situated to the south. Formerly vineyards and orchards, the southern part of the site is predominantly in grass and includes a large recently-created pond. The site’s southern and eastern fringes contain numerous trees and shrubs beside Te Wai ō Panuku.

The main built elements of the complex are described in an anticlockwise direction, starting with the former homestead and garage. The grounds are described subsequently.

Homestead and Garage (1923-4)

The homestead is a substantial timber building of idiosyncratic design, reflecting aspects of the Corbans’ Lebanese roots and the communal nature of extended family living. Like many houses in Shweir, the homestead is built into a slope – in this instance with a single-storey component at the front and double-storeyed element at the rear, overlooking the former vineyards. It is of timber-frame construction, with weatherboard cladding and a gabled corrugated iron roof. In its appearance, it is influenced by both transitional villa and bungalow design but in form and layout is specific to its initial occupants’ requirements. The building exterior is generally well-preserved, and although internally modified from its original layout can still be clearly read.

The building has a well-appointed interior reflecting the family’s position as the country’s largest winemakers and vinegrowers at the time of construction. Notable surviving ornamental features on the main floor include ceiling ventilators, etched glass-panelled doors, dining room fireplace and newel post to the staircase connecting upper and lower levels. Particularly striking are grape and vine motif stained glass on the building’s main entrance doors, and similar window motifs within both large rooms flanking the front hall - respectively the former parlour and A.A. and Nabijie Corban’s bedroom. An adjoining bedroom was converted to an office in 1979, and contains joinery and cabinetry connected with the winemaking business at this time. Within the lower level, the interior retains some original rooms to indicate their general size, as well as timber linings and notable features such as a Shacklock Orion kitchen range and associated cupboards towards the building’s northwest end. Changes to the building have included dismantling original brickwork at the main entrance during conversion to company offices in 1979, and the removal of bedroom partitions at both levels to create larger open spaces (2002). The rear verandah has also been replaced with a wider version.

The well-preserved concrete garage is similarly built into a slope and is single-storey on its front (northeast) elevation and two-storey at the rear. The construction methods are visible on only wall without plaster at the real. Its gabled roof is clad with corrugated iron and retains a brick chimney. Arches marking three vehicle bays on the front elevation have been infilled but are clearly visible. To their northwest is a window and doorway, linked with original office rooms. Internally, the large garage is lit by an elaborate nine-light window in its rear wall. A small staircase leads to an upstairs loft. Small rooms on the lower level comprise an original laundry and dairy. These are each accessed separately from the lower, northwest elevation. They have conventional four-pane sash windows and modern linings.

Early winery complex (1903 onwards)

The early winery complex consists of an amalgamation of structures of different periods, reflecting activity from the very earliest phase of winemaking on the site to industrial production half a century later. They incorporate two initially separate and free-standing structures: the 1903-7 winery, and stables of similar date. These were added to in the 1920s and fully interconnected by the 1940s. Many of the 1920s elements were replaced by a large, multi-gabled bottling plant addition in 1959-60. Collectively, the complex graphically reflects the business’ evolution from artisanal to industrial production.

1903-7 Winery

The 1903-7 winery lies at the east corner of the complex and can still be read as a separate building. Rectangular in plan, it has two storeys and a cellar, and a simple, gabled roof. The cellar is of brick construction, supporting a timber frame for the ground floor and loft that are mostly clad with corrugated iron. The frame, floorboards and other features retain evidence about early appearance and use.

The loft, in particular, retains its early character and features. The northeast wall framing holds evidence of a central doorway accessing a former external staircase, and flanking windows. Wide-board lining survives at this end, as does a built-in workbench below the northwest window. The remaining space, including the roof, is unlined. The positions of three original windows (known to have been of unusual, circular design) survive in the southeast wall. The southwest wall retains an original six-light window. The collared-roof frame and other timbers retain traces of whitewash or paint. The floorboards incorporate the upper chute into which grapes were discharged to a fermenting vat on the ground floor. This coincides with the position of successive grape crushers in 1910 and 1912.

The ground floor – initially used as a fermenting room, store and bedrooms for guests and the elder Corban boys – currently has three rooms. The cellar, accessed from an external porch, has been expanded by additions beneath the verandah and to the northwest, but retains its unlined ceiling with exposed joists, as well as supporting posts. An infilled hatch may indicate internal ladder access, or where wine was siphoned from an overlying fermentation vat to barrels housed in the cellar. Re-purposed as a tasting room and bar in the later twentieth century, the cellar currently contains a barrel-themed serving bench.

Stables

Situated in the northwestern part of the complex, the former stables is a two-storey, timber-frame structure of rectangular plan with a gabled roof. Its roof and northwest wall are clad with corrugated iron. Like the 1903-7 winery, the main, northeast elevation has been re-clad with fibrolite sheets, concealing an early ground floor entrance and other apertures although an external door to the loft survives. The ground floor interior, where horses utilised for cultivating the land and transporting produce were housed, retains its plain finishes and is largely intact. The upper storey or stable loft interior is partially lined with hardboard, although traces of earlier, horizontal board linings survive. Its collared roof is similar to that in the 1903-1907 winery.

Extended cellar (1920s), and office and packing room infill (late 1930s-1940s)

A single-storey, brick extension to the 1903-7 winery lies immediately to the northwest of the early cellar. Likely erected in the 1920s, this incorporates a surviving door and (infilled) window in its northwest side and two other door apertures in its southwest elevation. The latter lead into another room containing an unusually large, 6-panel door. The initial room may have incorporated a chimney and boiler as part of bottling facilities during early expansion of the plant. A second storey of timber-frame construction was added above the brickwork, incorporating two rooms lit with numerous windows. This provided new access – probably via a ladder – to the 1903-7 loft, suggesting creation associated with reorganisation of the early building when the 1941 winery was erected.

A two-storey gabled building connected this structure with the stables at a similar time. Its northeast elevation incorporates central doorways at both ground and upper floor levels, both with flanking windows. Internally, the upper storey retains horizontal board linings on its southwest wall with painted signage for alphabetically-designated storage areas, and hatches in the floorboards for interconnection with the lower floor. These may be linked with the storage and preparation of packaging such as cartons or boxes, or similar processes. This level also contains graffiti bearing the names of Corban family members and employees dating to the 1970s, which reflect the multicultural nature of the workforce.

Bottling plant and despatch facilities (1959-60)

The remaining structural elements comprise a bottling plant and despatch area that largely or fully replaced earlier winery extensions in broadly the same position. Its gabled, warehouse-style structure is mostly of single-storey construction, with large internal spaces that have mostly been partitioned. Concrete floors, roof trusses and skylights are visible. A former labelling and despatch area, later used as a staff cafeteria, is situated in a double-storey element at the northwest end. The southwest elevation of the overall complex formed an extension to the bottling, packing, storage and orders rooms in 1963-4.

1941 Winery remnants

Although subject to demolition in the early 2000s, visible remnants of the 1941 winery building survive in the form of large concrete vats, footings and concrete floor surfaces – the latter currently used as a car park. Collectively these represent the first fully-planned, industrial-scale winery on the site, and the business’ evolution into a greatly expanded, second-generation commercial enterprise.

Four blocks of concrete vats or tanks survive near the southeast end of the former building, arranged in two rows. Each block contains numerous rectangular, flat-roofed chambers, each containing a small aperture towards its base. The latter have metal housing for a door and an attached tray. The vats reflect mass-production, and a shift from wooden barrels for storing some wine products.

Surviving footings demonstrate the overall extent of the building, and provide evidence of construction methods and materials, as well as layout and access. The vats and associated concrete floors to the southwest might reflect changes to the interior following initial design in 1941.

Barrel store and distillery range (1940s onwards)

The barrel store and distillery buildings form a linear range along the northern boundary of the site, next to the North Island Main Trunk railway line. Perhaps replacing or subsuming parts of a pre-1935 range closer to the 1903-7 winery, they appear to be primarily linked with expansion in the 1940s, including the creation of distilling facilities on an industrial scale. Built before 1948, the distillery consists of a tall and well-preserved tower, several storeys in height. A rare surviving example of its type, it has brick footings to first-floor level supporting a timber-frame superstructure sheathed with corrugated iron. Iron also clads the gabled roof.

The internal framing is visually impressive and exposed to loft level. A small partition in one corner was formerly an office with internal windows. A mezzanine retains several tall, circular vats for spirits of varying strength. A complex network of metal pipework linked with the distilling process extends into the loft. Reached by a narrow timber staircase, the loft is a separate space. The tower was designed to accommodate a large copper still incorporating a tall rectifying column, a remnant of which may survive on an upper landing (see chattels).

A two-storey building of similar construction conjoins the tower to the northwest. Part of this may have been used as a cooperage after expansion of the wider complex in 1941. Access between the upper floor and adjoining railway line is via a large sliding door. At the base is a former barrel store extending northwest. This consists of a long, single-storey brick building with a gabled, corrugated iron roof, mostly enclosing a single space. The latter is lit by several twelve-light sash windows and is accessed by a large sliding door facing the 1941 winery. Other apertures, some blocked, exist towards its northwest end. A gabled extension (1963) roofed an earlier brick-built storage area, on to which a corrugated iron extension with monopitch roof was added (pre-1966) to house transformer equipment. At the southeast end of the range, on the site of pre-1935 buildings, is a boiler room built of concrete blocks. Two olive trees, remnants of many planted by Dalmatian families in 1965 to represent this community’s close connections with Corban’s Winery, survive south of the barrel store.

Early 1970s tank farm

Although built extensions to the 1941 winery have been largely removed, remnants reflecting ongoing expansion and technological development survive – including the remains of concrete bases for stainless steel storage tanks on two main levels of terraced ground in the northwest part of the complex. The lower area retains separately sized bases for 10,000 gallon refrigerated tanks once lying inside a building and nine 30,000 gallon external tanks, erected in 1971.

The upper terrace contains numerous similar bases of varying size, which are associated with concrete pads, retaining walls and other features providing evidence of spatial organisation, layout and use from the early 1970s onwards. Stainless steel storage was an innovation introduced by the Corban business. Now over half a century old, these remnants demonstrate the next stage for wine storage after the adoption of concrete tanks. They belong to the final stage of Corban’s position as the largest producer in the country.

Cask or barrel maturation warehouse, and additions (1960s-80s)

Two very large, conjoining warehouses in the western part of the built complex also reflect the expansion of industrial wine production by Corban’s winery during the 1960s and 1970s, and the ongoing increase of scale under initial multinational ownership in the late 1970s.

Initially created in 1962 for barrel-based wine maturation, the northeast single-storey, gabled building has corrugated iron wall and roof cladding, with wide, industrial doors and a gable louvre in its northwest elevation. Expanded southeast in several phases from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, some variation in construction methods can be seen, including use of concrete block footings in the later work. Concrete floors and other features survive, including beneath recently inserted partitions and floors at the southeast end.

The conjoining warehouse to the southwest is of similar scale, enclosing a single interior space of impressive proportions that remains open to the roof. The building is of combined steel and timber-frame construction with corrugated iron cladding on concrete block footings, and was built in two stages in 1973-4 – representing the final stage in development of the site before the Corban family relinquished majority control of the business. Numerous industrial features including wide industrial doors at each end, smaller doorways in the southwest elevation and outflow vents survive. A 1987, pole-built canopy at the southeast end of both warehouses reflects the ongoing importance of motorised road transportation for product distribution – first evidenced 50 years earlier by the 1920s garage.

Church of St Michael and All Saints (1914, relocated 2002 and 2005)

This Gothic Revival-style timber church is situated a short distance to the south of the homestead and garage. Relocated from elsewhere in Henderson, it does not form part of the historical winery complex and reflects the site’s development since becoming an Arts Centre. It does, however, have close historical connections with the Corban family, having – in its previous location – been where members worshipped, married and were farewelled at funerals.

The building is of timber-frame construction with weatherboard wall cladding and a corrugated iron roof. It incorporates a reconstructed belfry at its north end. In plan, it contains a small nave with a porch at its north end and a chancel or sanctuary at the south. An attached vestry east of the sanctuary is mirrored by a 2005 addition to the west. All internal spaces are lined, with the nave having a vertical-board wainscot and horizontal-board lining above. The nave ceiling is panelled. Above the nave entrance from the porch is an attached triptych of St George and the Dragon by artist Margaret Thompson Harvey (b.1924). This was previously housed in the sanctuary in 1954.

A small number of other buildings have been moved to the site for general use in recent years, and are not described. They do not currently contribute in a substantial way to the historical and cultural values of the place.

Grounds

An extensive area of land, formerly vineyards and orchards, survives to the south and west of the main buildings. Much of it is now under grass, with extensive plantings alongside the full length of Te Wai ō Panuku.

In the extreme eastern corner of the site is the former staff car park, at one time planted with vines. Trees adjoining the car park were planted in the 1970s, and can be seen to reflect beautification and improvements to staff facilities. Levelling up for the car park may preserve underlying cultivation features and other elements, such as those linked with poultry rearing in this area and possibly earlier smallholding in the 1890s. A recent bridge across Te Wai ō Panuku for pedestrians and cyclists provides direct access to this part of the complex from Henderson town centre.

The eastern fringe of the site incorporates a steep drop to Te Wai ō Panuku, and is occupied by various plantings. Exotic trees include mature pines, macrocarpa, poplar and oak. The pines are believed to have been planted in the 1890s or very early 1900s, and the oak and macrocarpa in 1902-20. Poplar may have planted at a similar date. Pine, macrocarpa and poplar were frequently established as fast-growing shelter-belts to protect orchards, market gardens and, in this instance, vineyards. Potential usage for oak included barrel-making. A group of pin oaks extending into the grassed area were planted by Corban Wines in the 1980s – perhaps reflecting the American connections of its multinational owners at this time.

Southeast and southwest glades that formed intrinsic parts of Mt Lebanon vineyards survive as distinctive features. They, and intervening land beside Te Wai ō Panuku, are fringed by similar trees. The southeast glade was used as an orchard: a single Bon Cretien pear tree, currently intermingled with an oak, survives at the entrance to the glade, having been planted in circa 1910. Between the two glades are well-preserved basalt steps and retaining walls, said to have led to the family’s washing pool in the stream below. Their stonework can be interpreted as the main surviving reflection on the site of A.A. Corban’s occupation as a stonemason before leaving Lebanon.

The position of a former path flanking the vineyards and connecting the homestead and winery to the steps is indicated by several plantings, including another surviving pear tree – possibly of Beurre Bosch or Clairgeau type. Others aligned trees include a pōhutukawa planted by Carl XVI Gustav, King of Sweden, while visiting the winery in 1989 – which is marked by a plaque – and the trunk of another planting that has grown to incorporate part of a metal post and wire fence separating the track from the vineyards.

The southwest glade is narrower than the southeast and was also once used as an orchard. Towards its west side, it incorporates a wide access track with brick retaining wall of stepped design, perhaps indicating past vehicular access for harvesting.

To the northwest, a much wider glade, formerly the vineyard nursery and possibly also incorporating an orchard. Trees beside Te Wai ō Panuku include a tall poplar and a very large pear tree. Having been used to cultivate young vines before transplantation, its ground surface is bumpy and irregular. At its northwest end is another recent pedestrian and cyclist bridge, with a connecting path to Mt Lebanon Lane – which forms the north boundary of the site.

Other recent features in the grounds include a small lake, created in the early 2000s; and a sculpture known as Moana the eel, which was unveiled in 2007. Both were created as part of the Twin Streams project.

Comparisons

The former Corban’s Winery and Mt Lebanon Vineyards is one of very few surviving complexes linked with winemaking in Aotearoa New Zealand that spans almost the whole of the twentieth century. Of those that do remain, it was the largest producer, and one of only a couple that formed major complexes through this period. It also incorporates very early or rare survivals, such as what may be the earliest intact purpose-built winery of private construction in the country, and a distillery tower connected with the production of fortified wine. It is also one of the most significant currently identified places linked with the contributions of Lebanese peoples to Aotearoa New Zealand.

An earlier surviving winery at Te Mata Estate in Hawke’s Bay is considered the oldest winery on its original site, with vineyards established in 1892 by Bernard Chambers. Its surviving winery building is believed to have been in use by 1896, following conversion from a brick-built stables erected two decades earlier. A barrel hall was added in the 1930s. This modest-scale complex was modernised after 1978 following resurgence of the Hawke’s Bay wine industry, and later expanded to designs involving noted architect Ian Athfield. Te Mata Estate includes Buck House (List No. 7628, Category 1 historic place), erected as a residence in 1980 to Athfield’s design.

One of the main industrial parallels for Corban’s Winery is the former Vidal Estate winery at Avenue Road East in Hastings. Established in 1905 by George Vidal, a migrant from Spain, the earliest building used as a winery was a pre-existing racing stables on the site. The establishment formed one of Corban’s rivals for several decades. In 1961, it opened the country’s first drive-in bottle store, and in the 1970s the first winery restaurant. The business remained on the site until 2018, when the complex was offered for sale. In addition to factory buildings and restaurant, the property at this time contained a function centre and five houses.

Mission Estate, also in Hawke’s Bay, was established as a winery on its current site at Greenmeadows in 1909 – although vineyards and orchards were planted in 1897. Founded by Marist religious brothers on part of the earlier estate of winemaker Henry Tiffen, some pre-existing buildings that were utilised included a former wooden stable employed as cellars (demolished in 1964). Other structures such as a large residence were relocated from the group’s earlier complex at nearby Meeanee, and buildings such as a church and accommodation block later erected. The estate operated primarily as a seminary, with commercial wine production secondary to its sacramental and domestic use. Major expansion occurred from the 1970s. Mission Estate currently operates as a commercial vineyard.

Most commercial wineries in the country’s other main early wine production region in Auckland and Northland – other than Corbans – were small scale. Pleasant Valley Estate in Henderson Valley Road, Henderson was established for winemaking in the same year as Mt Lebanon Vineyards (1902) by Dalmatian Stipan Yelas. In the 1980s, its vineyards covered 25 hectares. In 2002, it was described as New Zealand's oldest family-owned winery.

The government-owned establishment created at Te Kauwhata Winery (List No.4174, Category 1 historic place) survives. The surviving purpose-built winery was erected in 1903-4, probably under the supervision of Romeo Bragato. The complex encompasses a still tower (1941-2), considered a rare or unique feature, which in 2001 retained the only nineteenth-century pot-still in the country. Unlike Corban’s Winery, it did not develop into an industrial complex and was sold by the government in the early 1990s.

Winery buildings that have so far been formally recognised for their heritage values include Ellis’s Winery, which was evidently created before 1890 but damaged by a landslide in 1922, leaving only its stone cellar intact (List No.5133, Category 2 historic place; and part of Ellis’s Farm Historic Area (List No.7047); and a 1931 concrete wine shed forming part of the Devcich Farm, Kauaeranga, near Thames (List No.9497, Category 1 historic place), which retains associated winemaking chattels. Both are associated with surviving farm complexes.

Few major places linked with the early contributions of the New Zealand Lebanese community have been identified. The main example is Shalfoon Brothers Shop Buildings (Former) in Ōpōtiki, established by George and Stephen Shalfoon from Lebanon by 1903-4 (List No.807, Category 1 historic place). This contains a very large number of chattels linked with this business, which like A.A. Corban’s early interactions, involved strong trading and commercial links with Māori communities. The nearby De Luxe Theatre is also linked with the Shalfoon family, having been built as part of their commercial enterprise in 1926 (List No.3498, Category 2 historic place). In Dunedin, St Michael's Antiochan Orthodox Church (List No.7341, Category 2 historic place) was built in 1911 as the first purpose-built Orthodox church in the country, and has played a part in the affairs of the city’s distinctive Lebanese community.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1903 - 1907
Original Corbans Winery Building

Modification
1920 - 1950
Modifications to the Original Corbans Winery Building

Original Construction
1912 - 1914
Selling Depot

Original Construction
1923 - 1924
Homestead and Garage

Original Construction
1928 -
Distilling Tower and Boiler House, attached to winery

Original Construction
-
Cottage (demolished c.1923)

Original Construction
-
Stables

Original Construction
1914 -
Church of St Michael and All Angels

Addition
-
Winery extension

Original Construction
1941 -
Second winery, containing concrete vats

Addition
-
Boxing and other rooms added between 1903-7 winery and stables

Original Construction
-
Distillery, cooperage and associated barrel store

Addition
1959 - 1960
Bottling plant, replacing 1920s addition to 1903-7 winery

Original Construction
1962 -
Maturation barrel store

Addition
1963 - 1964
Extension to SW end of bottling plant

Addition
1964 -
Maturation barrel store extension

Addition
1967 -
Addition to c.1941 winery; extended 1969 and 1972

Original Construction
-
Upper tank farm

Original Construction
1971 -
Lower tank farm

Original Construction
1973 -
Storage warehouse, conjoining 1963-4 maturation barrel store

Addition
1974 -
Extension to 1973 warehouse

Addition
1978 -
Extension to 1962-4 maturation barrel store

Modification
1979 -
Alterations to homestead, including removal of brick entrance arch, one staircase and some wall partitions including between entrance lobby and hall

Modification
1981 -
Alterations to garage for offices

Addition
1987 -
Portico at SE end of warehouses

Demolished - prior building
2001 -
1967 Winery and extensions (apart from tank farm bases)

Relocation
2002 -
Church of St Michael and All Angels moved onto current site

Demolished - Fire
2005 -
1941 winery, after fire damage in 2004 (apart from concrete vats)

Relocation
2005 -
Church of St Michael and All Angels repositioned within site

Construction Details

Various, including timber (homestead); timber frame with corrugated iron cladding (1903-7 winery; distillery; cooperage; boxing room); timber and metal frame with corrugated iron cladding (warehouses); brick (1903-7 cellar; boiler room; 1940s barrel store; 1941 winery footings); concrete (garage; tank farms; bottling plant).

Completion Date

15th June 2022

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Cooper, Michael, 'Corban, Assid Abraham', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3c31/corban-assid-abraham

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

www.TeAra.govt.nz

Dalley, Bronwyn, ‘Wine’, in Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2008, https://teara.govt.nz/en/wine

Father to Son Tradition in Wine Making

A. A. Corban and Sons, Father to Son Tradition in Wine Making, Auckland, c.1961.

Corban Estate Winery, 426 Great North Road, Henderson: Conservation Plan’

Burgess and Treep Architects, ‘Corban Estate Winery, 426 Great North Road, Henderson: Conservation Plan’, [Auckland], July 2005.

Behind the Wine Curtain

Corban, Alex, Behind the Wine Curtain, Auckland, 1992.

Old St Michael’s Church, Henderson: A Conservation Plan

Dave Pearson Architects, ‘Old St Michael’s Church, Henderson: A Conservation Plan’, Auckland, August 1997.

Corban Winery Estate: A Heritage Assessment

Dave Pearson Architects, ‘Corban Winery Estate: A Heritage Assessment’, February 2014, Auckland.

The Other New Zealanders

McGill, David, The Other New Zealanders, Wellington, 1982.

New Zealand Wine: The Land, the Vines, the Peopl

Moran, Warren, New Zealand Wine: The Land, the Vines, the People, Auckland, 2016.

A Stake in the Country: Assid Abraham Corban and his Family

Scott, Dick, A Stake in the Country: Assid Abraham Corban and his Family, 1892-2002, Auckland, 2002.

Pioneers of New Zealand Wine

Scott, Dick, Pioneers of New Zealand Wine, Auckland, 2002.

Wine in New Zealand

Thorpy, Frank, Wine in New Zealand, Auckland, 1983.

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero report is available on request from the Auckland Office of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.