Mar 24 1970

Thomson’s Wairongoa Water

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Mr A C B Thomson lifted a moss-covered piece of wood from the track and exposed an iron pipe from which water poured into a small tank set in the ground. I gasped slightly as I swallowed the first mouthful. ‘It’s fizzy and tastes like the Tonic you have with gin.’ The water contains carbon dioxide, 99.5 per cent pure, soda, iron and many trace elements. ‘This could be a spa like those in the Black Forest but it’s much more beautiful here, I think. … There are ten natural springs in 100 yards along the track through the glade where the most surprising mixture of native and exotic trees grow together. …
… The bottling shed, where the track opens out, was built in 1894, and about six year ago was refaced with corrugated iron. Inside is a balcony with a wooden slatted front. ‘As children we used to act plays up there and the audience would sit downstairs.’ A small six-sided shed, next to this building, once housed the gasometer where the natural carbon dioxide, collected from the spring water, was used to charge the soda syphons.
Wairongoa, which means Medicine Water, was known to the Maoris and this area was first acquired by Mr John Bell who settled at Woodside. Mr Alexander Thomson purchased it from him in 1894. Bottling of the water commenced the same year in the existing shed and it was exported as far as Australia until transport and freight charges made it uneconomical. The bottling business closed down in 1939.
In this corner of North Taieri, once bare tussock, scrub, gorse and rocks, Alexander Thomson ran his farm, specialising in Clydesdales which won many prizes and championships; and he also created a beauty spot. Visitors in their thousands used to come to see the trees, spacious lawns and two splendid fountains. Trains made a special stop here. And although the bottled water was on sale in the shops, visitors were allowed to drink it on the property and to take away as much as they could carry with them. But this generosity was repaid with the most violent form of vandalism and the Thomson family were forced to close their property to the public.
Wairongoa is still closed to the public and readers are requested not to try and gain admittance. – “Taieri Buildings”, by Daphne Lemon, 1970.

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