Friday, 21 May 2010

Waikaremoana : Sir Rodney Gallen

Landmarks History Group guest speaker in June is Sir Rodney Gallen who will speak on the history of Lake Waikaremoana.
Hastings Central Library
Tuesday 8th June 2010
Upstairs, 5.30 - 6.30pm.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Hamilton Logan Richmonds Part 2

Chairman Sam Robinson and Waitotara founder Rod Pearce remain the only two farmer-directors in what was, until 1997, a wholly farmer-owned, unlisted, under-valued and history-bound Hawke's Bay regional meat company.The heavyweight board will want to extract maximum value out of a buoyant international meat trading situation, hoping that Loughlin and his team could shave the cents and make lucrative trading decisions while the sun shines.Future growth will not come from procurement share increases, which may have driven growth in recent years. It will come from continuous improvements in operational efficiency and marketplace performance.The future belongs to processors that can find new meat cuts and presentations to take them to new levels of profitability, for the customers, suppliers and shareholders. These must be branded and differentiated food products, he says, rather than commodity sales. The Brian Richards-inspired re-imaging of Richmond is essential in the quest for added value for Richmond. It has been about unifying the fragmented and often adversarial supply chain and changing the thinking in the company’s business-to-business relationships.Essentially, employees and suppliers have to see themselves putting attractive meal propositions in front of someone on the other side of the world.Recent historyRichmond pottered along profitably for that decade following one of the big industry rationalisations that were a feature of the 1980s. Richmond purchased Dawn Meat and Pacific Freezing and participated in the closure of Whakatu and the purchase of Takapau from Hawke’s Bay Farmers Meat Co, all during an eventful 1986. The closure of Whakatu was the best for all of Hawke’s Bay.To closure Wairoa would have killed Wairoa as it only has its hospital and Freezing works as two major employers. Hastings and Napier while devastating has much better job opportunities for the redundant employees. They still had one Freezing works and lots of other major industries.Faced with two pivotal decisions in the early 1990s, Richmond declined to get involved with the divestment of Waitaki to Affco and Alliance and a possible purchase of cash-strapped Weddel. Richmond was wise because it would have been buying the wrong set of assets and be headed for disaster. These decisions were before his time at Richmond, which began in 1993 as finance manager for the company, after earlier periods as an investment banker and chartered accountant.However, given the acquisitive nature of the times, those decisions could have condemned Richmond to a regional backwater of the rapidly coagulating meat industry or, worse still, a takeover target.Richmond’s big chance came in an offer to sell out of beef and lamb processing by Hawke’s Bay neighbour Graeme Lowe, of Lowe Walker, also strongly positioned in Northland and Taranaki, where Richmond did not operate.The $27-million purchase, completed in March 1998, quadrupled beef processing and focused new Richmond team on making a success of the large takeover, after opportunities for due diligence had been limited.A subsequent rationalisation of beef facilities closed Lowe Walker Hastings, converted Te Kauwhata to deer and then closed Otaki early in 1999.It took out 17 percent of our beef fixed costs while maintaining throughput at Dargaville, Te Aroha, Hawera and Hastings.Our investment adviser said he had never seen such a complementary fit of facilities, which gave Richmond the benefits of great synergies.A second round of lamb-processing facility rationalisation affected three plants in and around Napier/Hastings and one at Hawera while consolidating further processing in the $14-million new FoodTech plant on the Takapau site.Again, this took out 15 percent of lamb-processing costs for a small slaughter capacity reduction coupled with a large further-processing improvement.Next up was the Waitotara Farmers Meat Company merger (in October 1999) which swapped money and shares for the lamb plants at Waitotara (northwest of Wanganui) and Tirau, southern Waikato. It added a million lambs a year throughput, which is disappointing considering the size of Waitotara before the merger, but the focus of this move was to strengthen its geographical position and “bank the synergies”.In a paper called “Pursuing a Food Company Vision through M&A” presented to the Institute of Directors seminar in Wellington on November 3, 2000, Waitotara brought $2 million in EBIT and $8 million in synergies.Candidly, Richmond was exhausted by the time of the Waitotara assimilation and missed some opportunities and disaffected Waitotara farmer-suppliers decamped to other meat companies.Likewise Richmond has not made all it could have from the purchase in July 1998 and subsequent development of the Gourmet Direct upmarket local supply business, now the flagship for Richmond in food service.. Expansion-fatigue may also be indicated in his assessment of Richmond’s size presently as adequate for all that the company needs to do.Neither Loughlin nor, he believes, any members of the board set out deliberately to become the biggest meat company in New Zealand.“But there was a moment during long discussions about whether to acquire Lowe Walker, when one director said, ‘we had better consider where Richmond will be if we don’t buy Lowe Walker’.”The company has made three consecutive increases of more than $200 million a year in turnover, quickly taking it from number four in the industry by size to number one.A period of consolidation is dictated, taking out costs, raising efficiencies and developing new products.Richmond can never drop its risk management vigilance in such a low margin enterprise, he says.When earnings are as low as one to two percent of sales, a few wrong supply or sales contracting decisions can wipe out profit and a number of them can wipe out the company’s $120-million capital base. This has been a sadly recurring pattern in the meat industry.John Loughlin’s second year as Richmond CEO was the beginning of the distracting noises, as PPCS contended with Affco for control of one-third of Richmond being tendered by the Meat Board.When both were rebuffed, the shares went to the supposed Richmond-friendly investor grouping of HKM; three Maori business people.Not deterred, PPCS wooed HKM and in 1999 was again on the brink of control when Richmond’s farmer-shareholders successfully challenged the PPCS processes and repulsed the raider.A company called Active Equities, owned by Paul Collins and Bruce Hancox, rode to the rescue of Richmond, but that horse has also turned Trojan.Third time-lucky in 2000, PPCS purchased 16.7 percent of Richmond shares (10 percent from Auckland farmer-businessman Peter Spencer) and paid $3.65 a share for 49 percent of Hawke’s Bay Meat Holdings, a joint venture with Active Equities to own 35.8 percent of Richmond’s 41 million shares. Should it exercise the right to purchase the remaining 51 percent of HBMH between February and September 2003, PPCS will then own 52.5 percent of Richmond.The drawn-out fight for ownership control was more distracting for company employees who are fixed in the industry and the Hawke’s Bay region.If company executives had got involved in the industry politics then it would have derailed what we were trying to achieve. Perversely, yet another measure of the Richmond success to date has been the persistence of PPCS in gaining control, although the outcome for Richmond is as yet uncertain. PPCS presumably had an opportunity to block Loughlin’s nomination to the board of directors (before the annual general meeting in December) but chose to endorse his promotion in the expectation of further earnings growth. With two good years behind it and one good year in prospect, Richmond directors finally decided to seek a main board listing on the Stock Exchange last February, along with a $50-million capital notes issue.“Since the 1980s there had been a lot of debate as to whether listing was consistent with long-term farmer ownership..“Without farmers and without their stock coming through, any meat company only has a lot of assets in obscure places with redundancy obligations attached.“So we have to ensure returns are sufficient to sustain both the farming community and to reinvest in the business.“For a long time no-one was winning, with farmers and companies scrapping over the crumbs of the cake,” The listing eliminated the secondary market discount (of 25 to 30 percent) by making the market for shares more liquid. Many among 1900 smaller (mostly farmer) shareholders have benefited, and PPCS fronted up with cash to Spencer, Collins and Hancox pushing the share price to $3 briefly before settling down around $2.60.The money raised from the sale of capital notes has retired bank debt and provided funds for further re-quipping, just completed at Oringi, Te Kauwhata and Pacific Beef (Hastings).While they are an expensive substitute for bank funding, capital notes strengthen the balance sheet and may help to secure the company against prolonged downturns.As a substitute for equity, where Richmond trades on a price/earnings multiple of 5:1, [an after-tax cost of equity of 20 percent], then capital notes, with a pre-tax cost of funds at 10.75 percent, plus tax deduction, sit somewhere between debt and equity in terms of cost, strength and so forth.

Friday, 14 May 2010

History of Havelock North "Where six Roads meet"

Where Six Roads Meet ─ A celebration of Havelock Norths 150th anniversary 1860─2010.
Historian Michael Fowler will be giving a talk on 24 June 2010 to celebrate the 150th year since the founding of Havelock.
Topics mentioned in the talk will include: purchase and history of Karanema’s Reserve; why the site of the township was chosen; naming of the town; the early geography of Hawke’s Bay ─with the role that the rivers played in road and bridge building; early Havelock businesses and personalities; local government; 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake; the Chambers’ hydro-electric scheme; Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the 1912 naming controversy with Havelock South, leading to a new name ─Havelock North.
The talk is at the Havelock North Community Centre on Thursday 24 June 2010; from 7.30pm until 9pm. Refreshments will be served after the talk.
Tickets are $10 each, and are available from Michael Fowler; Poppies Books, 26 Havelock Road and the Hastings i-site, Russell Street.
Funds raised will go towards a digital voice recording system for the Landmarks History Group.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Aerial Mapping

On the 8th May 1936, New Zealand's now oldest aviation company, NZ Aerial Mapping (NZAM),

was officially founded by Piet van Asch in Hastings. Starting out with a Monospar ST25 twin engine aircraft bought directly from the General Aircraft factory in Feltham, England (for ₤1,450), Piet managed to arrange contracts to photograph farms of prominent land owners in Hawke's Bay. They had already put up a great deal of money for Piet to be able to travel to England, buy the aircraft and get the training necessary for the successful start of NZAM. The Early Years The first survey undertaken in New Zealand was for the Geological Survey which started on the 28th April 1937. The survey was of the Richardson Range in Otago and covered nearly 300 square miles (780 square kilometres) at 11,000 feet, yielding 843 frames of photography. From then until the war years, NZAM grew slowly yet solidly. Initially work was generally carried out for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and the Public Works Department. In 1938, the first work was won from the Land & Survey Department (L&S), which necessitated purchasing a new camera. This was the beginning of a long and enduring relationship between NZAM and L&S, later known as Department of Land & Survey Information (DOSLI), and now Land Information NZ (LINZ). The advent of hostilities in the Second World War saw NZAM take on a new and vital role. Under threat initially, having been targeted to be integrated into the RNZAF, Piet managed to keep the company separate and to grow it, taking on an ever-increasing workload with defence mapping projects. By mid war, it became obvious that the Monospar would need help. With its limited ceiling, a bigger more powerful aircraft was sought and in 1943 a Beechcraft AT11 was added to the line up. By June 1944, NZAM had photographed a total of 25,570 square miles (66,200 square kilometres) for the war effort. With the advent of the longer range and capacity of the Beechcraft, off shore surveys were a possibility. The first was in 1944 of Fiji, particularly the Suva Peninsula and areas at Lautoka. Since then, NZAM have worked in most of the Pacific Islands and have travelled as far as the Antarctic, Kathmandu, Vietnam and Thailand. The 1950's During the 1950's the company's progress was in ground-based expansion. 1953 saw the introduction of Photogrammetry on the suggestion of the then Surveyor-General. Science graduate Brian Perry led the company in this field with a special kind of acuity and practicality which was confirmed by the carefully contoured maps his staff turned out down the years. In a good month 8000 prints could be produced using the only three types of film available then. However it was still a tightly managed operation within the financial constraints of the Government, which continued to supply NZAM with the majority of its work well into the 1980's. The company's premises in Russell Street had reached maximum capacity. Therefore in 1956 a custom designed headquarters on the corner of Avenue Road and Warren Street in Hastings was built, tangible evidence of the company's progress. This impressive building boasted its own central powerhouse, which provided the essential clean air and water for the photography. The installation of copper tanks and refrigeration and with the use of positive pressure, dust was shut out of all the areas where film was being worked. Dairy industry pumps were even used to suck the films and papers flat in the various enlargers and copy cameras. This set-up was the envy of overseas visitors, providing cheap operation and played a valuable part in reducing dust on the film. In NZ this was of huge importance as NZAM keeps its film negatives forever, as opposed to the UK and Australia, which destroyed stocks after 10 years. Piet's insistence that the company 'produce a high quality article' kept him informed on research and development within the industry which saw equipment moving in and out of the company in fast succession. Three A8 Analogue plotters joined the company and were one of the survivors of the equipment movement era, remaining in use until well into the 1980's. One in fact is still in use today by a former employee for the production of orienteering maps. Throughout this decade, weather had a part to play as much as it is found today. Bad weather impacted on flying time and income on occasions but the usual high standard of product was maintained with an increase in the use of aerial photography being noticed in the 1950's. The 1960's NZAM worked on a number of projects during the sixties, one being the chain cover of all of NZ highways and the subsequent production of folders, which marked where every fatal accident was in order to make road improvements. The most prominent project was for the National Film Units' 'This is New Zealand' which was made especially for the NZ pavilion at Expo 70 in Japan. Three cameras were mounted in the nose of the Beechcraft enabling three screen stereoscopic viewing which won high acclaim. With the introduction in 1965 of the longer length Zeiss cameras, city survey photography produced extraordinary detail. To view wires on a clothesline and shadows on the tarseal from overhead wires excited the NZAM staff. Some of this earlier imagery was printed on a product called cronopaque made by Du Pont. Supposedly indestructible, its Achilles heel proved to be the hot Hawke's Bay sun if left in the backseat of a car too long! Prior to the mid-sixties, NZAM had been trying to discover how to reduce the angle of coverage of the normal lenses that were available for the large-scale city plans Piet wanted so much to supply to the city engineers. This ability to identify ground marks was only the start with special jobs flown twice, once with the wide angle cover to produce large scale contours which were then overlaid on the narrow angle enlargements allowing the photogrammetrist to only mark the odd fence corner to marry the two. 1965 also saw the introduction of halftones so that the city engineers and planners could superimpose information and take ammonia prints for contractors. The popularity of these saw NZAM producing more halftones than prints right into the 1990's. The company's third aircraft, ZK-CDK started survey in 1964. Named 'Matariki' in 1967, this Aero Commander 680F provided an operating ceiling of 25,000ft - treble the camera to ground clearance of the Beechcraft in the high country and 20 knots faster. This aircraft was overhauled in 2003 after a year of 'retirement' and still provides a valuable survey platform for the company. The higher ceiling of ZK-CDK resulted in the aircrew experiencing some cold temperatures in the winter of 1964 - and watching oil pressure gauges go below the minimum due to the oil in the pipelines up to the instrument panel freezing. NZAM started using colour seriously for the NZ Forest Service photography in 1965. Following that a small length of Agfa 7 film was exposed over the Mt Tarawera eruption chasm from the Eagle survey camera, resulting in wonderful colours - the only drawback was that the film had to be sent to Europe for processing. Forestry companies weren't too interested in colour photography until 1967 when a full-scale survey was carried out over the Kaingaroa State Forest to enable studies of a fungus disease (dothystroma). This was quite successful although the Kodak film speed was marginal and when a faster emulsion was available, the Forestry industry became more involved in colour coverage. The increase in work once again led to renewed pressure on space within the office premises and when the chance to purchase the neighbouring property arose in 1965, it was taken and the original builders' yard house was converted with a lunchroom at the back and mosaic room at the front, which later was used for picture framing. The house still stands today and occasionally serves as a function and lunch room. Towards the end of the decade, South Island farmlands were covered and the first flying coverage of the North Island was almost complete. The 1970's and 1980's With the arrival of the Rockwell Commander 690B in 1978, the need for two operational aircraft at higher altitude was met. The Beechcraft was flown to Hobsonville airport in January 1982, where it was collected by NZAM 39 years earlier, and taken to MOTAT for permanent display in Auckland where it can still be seen today. A notable aerial survey project was that of Greater Christchurch in early 1973 at a 1:10,000 scale. This series of mosaics on the national grid were extremely beneficial to the Police in order to base their security plan on with the 1974 Royal visit to the Tenth Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. Forestry mapping for Lands and Survey Department continued as did the forestry coverage for both North and South Islands. An unusual assignment was thermo vision work carried out between Taupo and Rotorua using the first two hours of daylight and the last two before dark. This avoided the main heat of the sun and allowed the recording of 2 degree ground temperature changes for the DSIR. The work enabled hotspots to be recorded and therefore avoided for road extensions and cable locations. The first testing of the DSIR Hasselblad cameras for the Remote Sensing division took place as well as various magnetometer surveys for the department. 1975 saw the purchase of an expensive Kodak Versamat processor to handle the longer lengths of 9 inch film and the testing of 500ft Kodak +X film which at last enabled even development of each and every exposure. The 48 x 48 copy camera also saw major modifications to allow it to make enlargements of the 9 x 9 film in negative size or portions thereof up to 67 diameters. When Piet bought the 12in Zeiss camera he arranged delivery of a 'family' of cameras, which included a 6in RMK 15/23 for each of the aircraft. These cameras with their Pleogon lenses were the price of a house each and the first arrived at the end of 1975 for use in the Aero Commander. The first replacement for the A8 plotters from Wild, which served the company well for a quarter of a century, arrived in 1984 and was analytical instead of analogue. This BC1 provided digital data stored on tapes or discs and allowed plotting within 20 minutes of setup as opposed to between 2 to 4 hours on the A8. Piet retired as managing director in 1980 but remained as chairman, and to fill his one-man position resulted in the creation of two joint managing directors, one of which was Piet's only son, Hugh. A revamp of the Hastings offices was undertaken in 1982-83 with new paintwork, the installation of a new fire alarm system, new roof and film vault to accommodate all the nitrate-based films that were recopied on safety base modern high resolution film. An unfortunate accident on 26 June 1986 saw the first NZAM aircraft, the Monospar ZK-AFF, destroyed in a fire at the Bridge Pa Aerodromme. The likely cause was thought to be a static discharge of electricity during refuelling. Only months short of its fiftieth year in operation with NZAM, one of the salvaged wooden propellers is still on display in the Hastings office. The 1990's and into the 21st Century The previous decades saw the growth of an exceptional company under the guidance of an equally exceptional man. Sadly Piet passed away in October 1996, and even today, he is still strongly associated with NZAM through staff and acquaintances who still talk of his achievements. The '90's saw many changes for the company necessitated by the digital era and the downturn in government and local authority work due in part, to the increase in the 'tender and do' market. The merger in 1993 between computer based land information company Aeroplan and NZAM saw the introduction of not only advanced computer technology and the necessary staff, but the company's first foray into geographical information systems (GIS). Hugh Van Asch and a number of remaining shareholders still held responsibility on the Board with the new owner, Craig Atchison. Through Craig's ability to bring the ideas into the company and the willingness of staff to bring them to fruition, NZAM continued, albeit in some hard times, through this decade. The advancement in technology heeded the need to move the majority of the operation to Auckland to capitalise on the increased market and staff availability. The remaining lab and photo sales worked with a staff of only 3 at times over a period of years until the return of the main operation in 2002. With the company still owning the purpose built facilities at Hastings and Bridge Pa it was therefore decided by the Board to return the company to its original home base. The lifestyle that the Hawke's Bay offered over the major cities meant that staff were more readily available and improvements with technology no longer restricted access to the data and subsequent markets. The operating fleet of the Aerocommander 680 and the Rockwell 690 were complemented with smaller lower level aircraft like the Cessna 205 and Piper Aztec. When the 680 was grounded for a year in 2002, it was up to the 690 to cover the workload that was spread between NZ and Australia due to a merger with an engineering company based in NSW. Cameras were vastly complimented by the purchase of an LH Systems RC30 which provides image motion compensation and automatic exposure control. Added to this is airborne DGPS survey technology and the flight planning software that provides superior results. Film has also improved greatly over the years and the company changes between AGFA and Kodak dependant on who is manufacturing the most superior and cost effective product at the time - a policy firmly installed by Piet himself. There are now digital cameras operating in aerial survey, and there are various other techniques for aerial imagery such as satellite imagery and airborne laser scanning. This decade saw the ownership of the company change for better and worse - the large shareholding purchase of the ex-state owned enterprise Terralink was envisaged to provide a complete one-stop land information stop. The separation of the units giving TIL ownership of the GIS components and NZAM aerial survey and intensive photogrammetric projects like forestry, led to the demise of the idea. Reverting back to full NZ ownership in 2003 saw the company focus once more on core activities. Vast improvements were made especially in photogrammetry which had not maintained an up-to-date presence due to the focus on GIS. Complete new Helava suites were purchased with all the latest software enabling more computer processing and less human intervention. The company purchased its first roll-film scanner and now operates a complete in-house solution, from aerial survey right through to the end photogrammetric and image product.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Piet Van Asch (1911-1996) ─ the founder of Hastings based New Zealand Aerial Mapping

Hastings aerial mapping entrepreneur, Piet Van Asch (1911-1996) ─ the founder of Hastings based New Zealand Aerial Mapping, will be the subject of May’s Landmarks History Group talk.

While at secondary school at Christ’s College in Christchurch during 1925-29, Piet developed an interest in flying.
In 1931 he took an aerial photo of the Whakatu Freezing works and Iona College – both which sold quickly ─ and he realized an opportunity for a business.
After earning his ‘A’ pilots licence in 1934, Piet began to plan an aerial mapping company, which he eventually formed in 1936. He left for London four days later to purchase his first plane ─ a Monospar ST-25 Universal.
In early 1937 Piet arrived back in Hastings, and using Bridge Pa Aerodrome as his base, began what is now New Zealand’s oldest aerial mapping company.
The story of Piet Van Asch will be told by his son Hugh, who also worked for New Zealand Aerial Mapping.
Cyril Whitaker, a pilot at New Zealand Aerial Mapping for 38 years, will also attend the meeting displaying some photographs of the company’s history.
The talk will take place at the Hastings Public Library, Warren Street, on Tuesday 11 May from 5.30pm until 6.30pm. Gold coin donation upon entry.