History of NZ First Private Seed Testing Laboratory

In 1963 Mary Howarth returned from the UK. She had been on twelve months leave from P.N. Seed Testing where she had been in charge of 75 girls.

When in London she approached Wright Stephenson & Co (London office). Mary thought that as a big percentage of seed tested came from Canterbury, that Christchurch would be an ideal place to set up a Lab.

In February 1963 an old storage shed was cleaned out in Princess Street, Addington, it was part of the W.S. dressing plant. Mary imported the blotters from Holland and had three tanks made. A 25º Germinator and a 20 º Germinator was sent over from the U.K.

In April 1963 Mary had so much work she required an assistant. A School Leaver Ann-Marie Kavanagh joined Mary. Ann-Marie was from a farming background and her father Des. Was a client of Wright Stephensons. Joe Stewart (Seed Agent) arranged the interview. Ann-Marie stayed with Mary for 6 years.

During that time many changes took place. The tests were done on all cereals and small seeds F.D/M.D. Germ. Puriety T.2 U.V. The Lab proved a great success as it indicated to the storemen the condition of the seed.

Mr Hamilton was in charge. Mr Hartley was the Head Storeman; Bob Mather was Head Office Boy (Cashel Street).

Mary and Ann-Marie had a wonderful time in the Lab. at the “Shack”. The slide rule was the way % was worked out. T.2. were done by Mary and Ann-Marie long before seed testing.

Mary belonged to I.S.T.A. and we were directed by their methods. Spur gun was used to dust Peas, Beans, etc.

Many visitors passed through the “Shack” Colombo Plan Students, Office Boys, Young Farmers, and Federated Farmers.

In 1965 a new office block was built and the staff from Cashel Street moved to Princess Street. The front of the Seed Dressing Plant. A new Lab was built with state of the art walk in cool room/U.V. Room and a special concrete slab for the balance.

Next to the ‘Shack” was the Storeman’s Tearoom. It was a standing joke when we would hear Jack Hartley’s voice mind your language you know we have two ladies here now.

The day before the Lab moved from the “shack” Mary and Ann-Marie made Pavlov’s for the Storemen and placed them in the double door fridge 5º. A group was being shown through by Jack Rankin when they came in John Cassey was enjoying a sample of Pav with cream over his tie.

Jack opened the fridge to show the visitors 5º/false winter. As he was telling them eight creamed Pavs. were on display. The look on their faces was unforgettable.

(Story and photos supplied by Mrs A.M. Youngman)