The challenge of flax : a study of New Zealand Woolpack and Textiles Limited, Foxton and its employees : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Geography at Massey University
"Flax is the life blood of Foxton" - a truth or a myth? This often repeated remark by past and present residents prompted the study of its one major industry, New Zealand Woolpack and Textiles Limited and its employees. To give the study a wider perspective, it has been set against the background of the flax industry as it developed in New Zealand prior to 1933. This terminal date marked the virtual collapse of New Zealand's export trade in flax fibre and the establishment at Foxton of the Company of New Zealand Woolpack and Textiles Limited. Although the firm continues to play a vital role in the economic and social affairs of Foxton, flax in recent years has been of declining importance to the industry as it has diversified its manufactures into products which no longer have flax as their prime raw material. If plastic fibres are substituted for flax in the manufacture of woolpacks, and there is a strong possibility, flax growing and milling would be of even less significance for the people of Foxton than they are today. I should like to record my sincere appreciation of those who have rendered assistance during the preparation of this thesis. In particular, the following are mentioned: Messrs. W.E. Hale and C. Pearce (New Zealand Woolpack and Textiles Limited); Messrs. W.J. Walker and G.B. Miller (Department of Agriculture); Mr. D.D. Wilson (Department of Labour); the Department of Lands and Survey; the Valuation Department (Palmerston North); the New Zealand Wool Board; and the Mitsui Company (Wellington). I wish to acknowledge the sources of the following photographs: Figure 3 - New Zealand Aerial Mapping Limited, Hastings; Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7 - Geography Department, Massey University; Figure 8 - Whites Aviation Limited, Auckland. Special thanks are due to Mrs. Flathaug for typing the manuscript and to Miss Yvonne Pearson for cartographic assistance in the preparation of the maps. To my mother, for her unfailing support and encouragement throughout my years of study, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. To my wife, Joan, for her help and tolerant understanding during the preparation and completion of this research, I also owe a great deal. Finally, I should like to express my indebtedness to my two supervisors, Mr. B.G.R. Saunders in the preliminary stages of this study and Professor Thomson, whose unflagging interest and helpful criticism provided the inspiration and stimulus which saw this investigation through to its eventual completion.