Mapua School

Mapua - The good, the bad, and the ugly

History of the old Chemical Site

Image of a time graph.

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This timeline shows some of the information we found out about the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company. Further details are found in the information below.

Photo of a chemical site.

Photo of a chemical site.

These two photos date back to the mid

Photo of a chemical site

This photo shows what the site was
like around about 1988.

1931 Arthur McKee Senior built the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company. He came up with the idea because all the sprays he needed for his orchard were imported and he thought that it would be cheaper to make the sprays here. There were a lot of other orchards in Mapua and New Zealand so he would be able to sell the sprays as well as use them himself.

The Company was probably established on the corner of Tahi Street and Aranui Road because it was close to the wharf so the ships could easily transport goods to and from the chemical works. It was also established in the Mapua area because this was close to the family orchard and there were lots of other orchards in the area also needing the sprays. In those days there were only a few holiday baches nearby.

We think he called it the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company because it tells people exactly what the Company does – makes chemical sprays for fruit growers.

In 1932 Tas and Guy teamed up with their dad and made lime sulphur and the company started to grow. Over the next fifty years the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company became a very successful business.

In 1943 Arthur McKee Senior died and his sons took over the Company. Tas died in 1973 and Guy died in 1980 and other people took over the company.

Mr Robb, a former employee at the Chemical Company, said that the McKees were good bosses to work for. He told us that they were caring people who looked after their workers well. Wharf:

Chemical site mid 50s:

These two photos date back to the mid 50s. Some of the sprays produced had persistent chemicals in them. Persistent means chemicals that did not break down in the soil. For a start, they were very pleased that they had made these strong sprays but as time went on they could see that this was not good for the environment. Due to spillage and burying of these obnoxious chemicals the land got polluted. The soil became so contaminated because the chemicals did not break down over time and they built up in the soil. They buried some of them on purpose because they did not know what else to do with them. The chemicals then leaked into the estuary, badly affecting wildlife that lived and fed in this area.

The council changed the law about how factories disposed of their waste. They did this because they became aware of the harm chemicals and other waste products were doing to the animals and sea life. They changed the law to protect the environment. The company closed. We think this was because they could not afford to make the changes needed. They abandoned the land and buildings in 1988.

To find out what happened next, click on the Clean up link below.

History ] Clean up ] Future possibilities