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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989

(d) Murchison

(d) Murchison

Another operation started in the early 1920's, at Murchison, on the initiative of the local Farmers Union. The quarry and plant were initially situated on the hill, close to the present main road bridge over the Matakitaki river. Unfortunately, the quality of the limestone was not good, so the works was shifted to Newton Flat in 1929. High transport costs made this uneconomic and the works soon closed.

Later it was bought by Alex Thomson, subsequently a Nelson butcher, and well-known Nelson accountant Bert Hodgson. They shifted the works to their property, Forest Home, on the Four Fiver Plain near Murchison, and the lime they produced was used solely on their own farm.

Bert C. Spiers, who was working in the firm of B. S. Spiers and Sons, found himself without a job when this firm of carriers was taken over by Transport (Nelson) Limited in 1939. He purchased the lime crushing plant from Thomson and Hodgson, paying for it with lime supplied to them in the following two years. In that first year he produced about 500 tons of agricultural lime.

He spread lime for farmers, with a truck and a Munro spreader attached to the back. In 1942 he shifted the plant back to Newton Flat, where it is still operating. The works was sold to Lime & Marble Limited in 1976. This firm was interested in using the very high quality stone for industrial purposes, as well as the agricultural production. From 1958 to the present, this has averaged 4671 tons a year, with a peak of 7835 tons in 1980. In general, a similar quantity has been produced for industrial use over the years by both Bert Spiers and Lime & Marble Ltd.

The quarrying of the stone is a very difficult operation, as the seam is only about 15 metres thick, and disappears into the hillside, like meat in a sandwich of granite on either side. This makes extraction tedious and expensive.