Otautau Linen Flax Mill

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This photograph is a part of an aerial image produced in 1977 for and used by courtesy of the current owners of the adjacent/surrounding farm property, Sandra and John McKenzie. The Arboretum is managed by a Trust and is on land that they (quite rightly) insisted that the Southland District Council bought when it came up for sale. The layers of heritage and history are, for now, safer than they have ever been under other owners subsequent to Alex McKenzie.

Although of only modest resolution, this photo clearly shows the original boiler house and the six tank retting building along with three of what appears to have been at least six mill cottages. By the date of this photograph, many NZ Forest service buildings have been erected and the less substantial of the mill buildings have gone - the dark patch will be the foundations (concrete floor) of the main building.

The boiler house and retting tanks were made from reinforced concrete and they are resistant to normal natural forces!! This mill and one at Timaru, are the only two of seventeen where the boiler house too has gone - in the case of this mill, demolished by Rayonier with a ball wrecker and a big crane!

A mill had a range of structures for de-seeding the flax and cleaning the seed for re-use or pressing it for Linseed oil, for stripping the fibres once the basal material had been rotted off in the warm water tanks, and other buildings for scutching and baling as well as a weigh bridge near the gate and pumping buildings for fire fighting and water supply. Remnant cabling at one mill shows that the electric power demand for these mills was very high and that special arrangements had to be made to manage the voltage drop and power factor for consumers all around the district when the mill was running!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 29, 2013
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works
    by Bruce Comfort