Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Great Oakleigh Park Poultry Farm

For a while, in the first decade of the 20th century, the air close to the mouth of Oakley Creek (near the motorway) was probably full of feathers, the pungent stench of bird dung, and the sound of 15,000 birds at full voice.

A subdivision plan for Oakleigh Park in Waterview, DP 8380 from 3 February 1913, shows William Newell as the owner of Allotment 18 (30.2.5 acres) with H. D. Dyke as the occupier. This plan is associated with certificate of title NA 211/236, when Newell obtained formal title of Allotment 18 under application 5536. Eight years earlier in April 1905, he appears on the title for Allotment 17 (NA 61/124, around 51 acres), then held by Sophia Hoffman, although formal transfer of title didn’t take place until September 1907. It can be assumed therefore that Newell had associations with both allotments from c.1905 – which is when Dyke’s poultry farm makes its appearance. It is likely that Dyke was Newell’s tenant.

In November 1905, the chief Government poultry expert Mr. D. D. Hyde paid a visit to the Momohaki State Farm near Patea, and mentioned in the course of conversation with a reporter from the Hawera & Normanby Star [28 November 1905, p. 2] that “poultry farming on a large scale had recently been commenced at Oakleigh Park, near Auckland … The plant is in charge of a practical man, and while predicting success for the enterprise, Mr. Hyde says it gives an idea of the progress of the poultry industry.”

Mr. Hyde seemed quite taken with Dyke’s poultry farm. He had spoken about it to a reporter for the Otago Witness in Dunedin earlier that month [8 November 1905, p. 31]. “By the end of February,” Mr. Hyde said, “Mr. Dyke expects to rear 15,000 young birds.”

The Grey River Argus from Westland [5 April 1906, p. 2] waxed lyrical about Mr. H. V. Dyke, now of the firm Walker & Dyke, and his immense poultry farm, the largest in New Zealand, at 108 acres (I’m still wondering whether 20 acres dropped into the sea, or if the inflated acreage was just enthusiastic exaggeration.) Mr. Hyde, after promoting Dyke’s farm to the West Coasters, once again told those in Dunedin all about Oakleigh Park, the 11,700 birds raised, 6 500-egg capacity machines, and an expected output of no less that 20,000 chicks in the coming season. [25 April 1906, p. 31]

In June 1906, Government grader George Pounsford “stated that he had secured from Messrs Walker and Dyke of Oakleigh Park a pair of ducks similar to those exported by that firm, and which brought top prices on the London market.” [Hawera & Normanby Star, 26 June 1906] Mr. Hyde, once again, promoted Dyke & Walker’s operation in December 1906, stating that out of “no fewer that 16,700 head of fowls and ducks on their farm at Avondale,” 10,000 were purchased by an Auckland butchers firm. [Evening Post, 15 December 1906]

Eggs placed in cold storage in August 1905 for “Messrs Dyke Brothers” by the Department in Auckland, were reported in June 1908 as being “almost as fresh as when they were first put into cold store [Taranaki Herald, 1 June 1908]. In June-July 1908, F. E. A. Gordon of Petone and H .V. Dyke of Avondale took out patent no. 24388 for a poultry house. [Progress, 1 August 1908, p. 352]

Soon after this Hyde, Dyke’s greatest promoter, lost his job in a bureaucratic reshuffle. By World War I, the Waterview poultry farm appears to have faded away.

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