The Northland Age

Curious about the status of the cream stand

- Robin Shepherd

In a rapidly changing world, it is very easy for us to lose some significan­t markers of the past. In the modern world where a screen image is often seen as the “real” thing preserving the actual articles may not be seen as important.

This all came to mind when I spotted an excellent surviving example of a cream stand. Yes, you may well ask, what is a cream stand?

Until the early 1960s, most dairy farmers were milking cows with the intention of selling the cream. This necessitat­ed having a separator to remove the cream from the whole milk. That cream was put into cans which were left at the gate to be picked up by the cream truck which took the cream to a butter factory close by.

While waiting for collection on the roadside the cans were put into a small building built to keep the cans as cool as possible and also built to have the platform at the height of the truck deck. Some of these buildings were wonderful constructi­ons with louvred sides, gable roofs and decorative­ly painted, I can remember one which was a small-scale copy of the farmer’s house.

I doubt that resource consent was ever sought or given, nor was the approval of the council given to place a private building on public land. Thousands of these cream stands dotted the roadsides through the country but now they have mostly disappeare­d.

Many had other uses either as roadside pens in which bobby calves were held awaiting collection before they went off to become veal. Some were transforme­d into bus shelters for school children and at least one became a play house in the farmer’s front garden. Many were demolished and I can point to some rescued timber from one such demolition as it has become the four legs of my woodwork table.

So, when I drive past the wellpreser­ved one on Snelgar Road I salute this rare survivor and wish that it long may stand proud as a marker and reminder of an important period in the history of New Zealand dairying.

Cream is now separated at the factory and milk is picked up in refrigerat­ed tankers.

Surviving cream stands could perhaps be given the status of historical buildings and used as tourist attraction­s.

In passing, I wonder who legally owns it as it clearly is built on part of the road reserve and I doubt that the current owner of the adjacent farm bought it as part of the farm assets.

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