Putaruru, on SH1, is one of those towns we usually drive through on the way further north or south. But just for a change, we decided to stop here overnight at the local POP and have a little look around.
The history of the town was based on timber. In the late 1940s the newly established Putaruru Timber Yards built several mills to process wood from exotic forests which had been planted nearby in the 1920s. The mills were taken over by New Zealand Forest Products in the 1970s, but changes in the industry in the 1980s caused Putaruru’s population to decline. A further blow came in 2008 when Carter Holt Harvey, the major timber company at the time, closed their mill making over 200 workers redundant. However, the company offered 80 jobs down the road at its Kinleith plywood plant.
But the town survived, and is now the commercial centre for some of the most productive dairy farmland in the country. The Lichfield Dairy Factory - which is one of the newest and largest cheese factories in the world, is only 6km from the town centre. Water from the nearby Te Waihou springs is bottled commercially, providing about 60% of New Zealand's bottled water. With beautiful river walks, and the area being touted as a fisherman’s paradise, there is plenty of outdoorsy things to see and do. We were keen to visit the New Zealand Timber Museum, but sadly this is now only open during the weekends. Perhaps next time.
Right next door to our POP is a cute little Shetland pony living all by himself in a large paddock. He came up to the fence looking for something tasty to nibble. By the size of his rotund tummy, it seems that he gets plenty of treats to keep him happy. I’m sure he would love me to give him a nice juicy apple tomorrow morning before we head off again.
Geoff and Eileen rejoined us in the early evening, arriving in darkness as their caravan was manoeuvred around into place. The caravan had a trip to the factory to have a couple of little jobs attended to. It promises to be quite a chilly night here in Putararu. With clear skies and no winds, there could well be a bit of a frost in the morning.