In Upper Takaka
Lime (calcium carbonate) in one hundredweight bags (50.8kg), were towed on a trailer up the hill with a McCormick T20 crawler tractor. The bags were emptied onto a steel tray and the lime was thrown onto the pasture with a shovel. The lime was supplied by Jim Newport’s lime works at the end of Pigville Gully Road, West Takaka. This lime was 99% calcium carbonate.
To speed things up, a Munro top-dresser was purchased in 1947 and was ﬁtted onto a two tonne trailer. The top-dresser was 4.2m wide, so it had to be dismantled every time it was to be taken through a gate. A home-made self-feeder was attached to the top-dresser, so 250kg of lime could be sown at a time.
About 1952 aerial top-dressing commenced in Upper Takaka with a De Havilland (DH) Tiger Moth. This was the ﬁrst aerial top-dressing in Golden Bay. The aircraft had a slow ﬂying speed of about 80mph (128.75kph) and they could carry ﬁve hundredweight (254kg) of fertilizer at a time. This use of aircraftpage 31
totally transformed hill country top- dressing and brought signiﬁcant gains in pasture growth.
In 1949 Aerial Work Marlborough (AWM) was formed by Lance (Snow) Gatehouse, a former De Havilland aircraft mechanic, RNZAF Paciﬁc ﬁghter pilot and ﬂight instructor at the Marlborough Aero Club. The company was ﬁnanced by Bluff Station’s owner, James Anderson Chaffey, and Bluff Station’s headman, Les Roberts. The Bluff Station, located up the Clarence River, was inaccessible and aircraft access was the solution. Ex- Battle of Britain pilot Bill Parker was the Company Secretary. They used a DH 83Fox Moth ZK APT to ﬂy food and supplies to Bluff Station.
The most ambitious object airlifted in was a Massey Ferguson tractor, which had been disassembled. The large tyres were folded and bound with No. 8 wire, to ﬁt inside the aircraft.
The boss of AWM, Snow Gatehouse, visited us and explained the standard of airstrip required, how to select the best site and what wind conditions were acceptable. After inspecting our proposed airstrip and others in Golden Bay, he said that if his pilots would not ﬂy off those strips, he would ﬂy the job himself. He explained that you could not operate in a gale, but he thought aerial top-dressing would be a piece of cake in Golden Bay.
Jimmy Hayter accompanied Snow on these initial visits as Aerial Work Marlborough’s, Nelson and Golden Bay agent. Jimmy had been a World War II ﬁghter ace for the RAF, with 535 sorties to his credit, and had been awarded the DFC for bravery. Jimmy, who was from Rocklands, knew Golden Bay well and, given his ﬂying background and local knowledge, he was probably invaluable in assessing the airstrip locations.
Superphosphate arrived in 80kg sacks and was stored in sheds on the farm. We made a loading stage on the day at the airstrip by placing heavy timber on top of 44-gallon drums, and the sacks of superphosphate were stacked on top of it. We ﬁlled the loader bucket, which was attached to the front of a truck, from the loading stage, or from the Commer and Austin truck decks. We used DDT for Porina grass grub control, page 33 and half a small tin can was put into each planeload from 44-gallon drums, which gave effective control.
The ﬁrst time the plane came to ﬂy on our farm, the pilot was Ilario (Larry) Zampese. Larry was originally born in Conco Italy, immigrated as a child with his Italian parents and siblings, to New Zealand.2 His family settled in Greymouth.3 He was educated in Greymouth and during WWII in 1944, he trained as a pilot for the RNZAF. At the end of the War, he served in the occupation force of Japan, where he visited the destruction of Hiroshima.4 After the war he rejoined the Air force. For a while he ﬂew passen- ger planes in Australia. In 1950 he worked as a top dressing pilot for Airwork (NZ) Ltd for a short period, before taking up a Blenheim based job ﬂying for AWM.5 He had also been training to be a Roman Catholic priest. He did not complete his training, as he had taken a natural interest in females.
Larry had phoned us from Nelson and asked if it was windy in Upper Takaka? We believed it was not windy. Sure, we could see the branches of the trees were swaying, but Snow had told us that this was not too windy for aerial top-dressing operations. Larry told us to light a ﬁre when he arrived, so he could see which way the smoke was drifting, as a plane had never used the airstrip and he wanted to get everything right.
We went to the airstrip and prepared a heap of wood for a ﬁre. When the Tiger Moth came over the Takaka Hill we page 34 attempted to light the ﬁre, but the air was moving so fast that we could not even light the paper. When we eventually got it going, the smoke went straight along the ground. The Tiger Moth circled the airstrip once and then headed back over the Takaka Hill. We could not understand why he had not landed, having been told that the wind was not an issue and that the airstrip was perfect. A while later Larry rang our home saying “Are you trying to kill me? Is there a hedge around your house? That was a gale! I will ring you tomorrow morning”.
Next morning the day was calm and Larry landed, and our education about what was a suitable airstrip began. Unlike modern planes, which can cope with quite strong winds, the wind speed acceptable for a Tiger Moth was very low. We also discovered that the airstrip had a few ploughing ridges, which proved very bumpy for takeoffs and landings. Snow had played on our ignorance to secure our aerial top-dressing business.
Larry Zampese and truck driver, Tim Archibold, had brought a caravan to sleep in, but they did not need to use it as Mum put them up in our house. One day when the wind was blowing, Larry asked us if we would like to have a look through the caravan. We accepted and he showed us the cooking equipment, how the beds and table folded down, and all the cupboards and drawers.
The whole job took about three to four days of ﬂying. In the evenings we would chat about ﬂying with Larry and Tim, who had learnt to ﬂy after the war. They would recount their ﬂying experiences, including close shaves. I particularly remember Larry as an excitable but likeable Italian, who had a strong faith in religion. One day I saw him get very animated with the truck driver for putting control locks in his tail and wing control surfaces without telling him. The more excited he got, the more high pitched his voice became.
One St Patrick’s Day the local Catholic priest arrived at the airstrip, as Larry had phoned him. Dad started talking with the priest and when Larry landed for another load he yelled out to Dad “Look what St Patrick has bought us, Arthur”!
Larry left AWM and ﬂew for Aer Lingus in Ireland, where he ﬂew pilgrims between Ireland and Rome. He later completed his priest training in Italy and was ordained in his birth place, the Northern Italian town of Conco, on April 25, 1962. Following his ordination he served as a priest in Westport and Palmerston North. Eventually he returned to ﬂying as a missionary pilot in Papua New Guinea, where he was killed, near Sassoia, in a plane crash on June 30, 1967.6 He was aged 42 when he died. It is interesting to observe that there were many agricultural pilots that came to Golden Bay, but Larry was particularly well remembered on account of his personality.page 35
In recent times, with the advent of bulk fertilizer supplies, we have used bulk top-dresser trucks to fertilize the ﬂats. We have also built an airstrip on the schist country on top of the Takaka Hill and constructed super storage bins there. Today, an airstrip high on a ridge between Sugar Loaf and Hailes Knob is used and modern turbo prop aircraft like a Paciﬁc Aerospace P750 XTOL can carry 1,905kg at speeds of 259kph. Incidentally, AWM’s ﬁrst DH 82 Tiger Moth ZK AJH is now privately owned and is currently being restored at Omaka in Marlborough.
|1||Per com Snow Gatehouse 20 January 2010, Blenheim. Ken Wright.|
|2||Retrieved from http://rete.comuni-italiani.it/wiki/Conco/Lapidi_sul_ Municipio|
|3||From Greymouth To Italy-much-travelled former pilot ordained soon.Greymouth newspaper article, April 1962. Sourced from Deacon Lou Zampese (Larry’s nephew) Hamilton.|
|4||Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero DAT33 Tks42-43 J Force-Hiroshima(Larry Zampese).|
|5||The Topdressers 1990. Janic Geelen & Ray Deerness ISBN 0-9597642 2 4 (NB No Page numbers)|
|6||Retrieved from www.pprune.org|