Driving through Longburn, one doesn’t quite get the scale of the Longburn. From state highway 56 Longburn just seems like another township. On the west side of the town however, large factory buildings tell a different story. Longburn is a very busy satellite town of Palmerston North, home to large scale dairy processing plants.
Some of Manawatu’s first European settlers lived in the district round Longburn — then known as Karere.
One of New Zealand’s most unusual immigrants arrived at Karere, on the bank of the Manawatu River in 1866. Bishop Ditlev Gothard Monrad had been prime minister and a high ranking churchman in Denmark. In his homeland he became the hated scapegoat. Under his leadership of the government Denmark had been defeated in war by Bismarck’s Prussian army and Danish territory had been lost.
The group Monrad brought to New Zealand included his wife Emilie, two daughters, two sons, a daughter-in-law, and five young Danish men who also wanted to emigrate. They became the first purchasers of land in the “township of Palmerston”.
This unlikely colonist never intended to stay in New Zealand for the rest of his life — he simply wanted some time out. The family were used to, music, literature and art and brought with them to Karere a large library of books, good china and silver and fine works of art — including etchings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Durer and Van Dyck. A grand piano was also carefully transported up the river on two canoes lashed together.
While other family members settled permanently in New Zealand, Bishop Monrad and his wife Emilie returned to Denmark after three years. Before returning they generously donated their precious collection of European drawings and etchings to the New Zealand government. It is now a prized possession of Te Papa, celebrating Danish and New Zealand friendship.
The Monrads were quickly joined by other settlers at Karere as soon as land was available for purchase: Matthew Hamilton, David and George McEwen, David Rowland, James Sly, Peter Stewart and David Watson.
Longburn’s first in the story of dairy processing.
It was Bishop Monrad’s son Johannes who imported from Denmark the first centrifugal cream separator seen in the Manawatu. In June, 1883 he demonstrated this wonderful machine to a group of local farmers.
It was this meeting that gave the impetus to the forming of a farmer co-operative that opened a butter factory equipped with three Danish cream separators at Longburn in November, 1884.
Longburn’s first in the story of Manawatu meat processing
In 1890 - just eight years after the first trial shipment of frozen meat left New Zealand bound for England on the sailing ship Dunedin — Manawatu’s first freezing works opened. Directors of the Longburn Freezing Company were local businessmen and farmers and their investment cost them £36,000.
Sad to tell, these innovative men lost their money when the company went into liquidation in 1895. However the works were taken over by the National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand Limited and ran successfully. A British company, the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited, bought the works in 1940 and the plant was a big Manawatu employer until its closure in October, 1987.