The O-I NZ Story

The history of glass packaging production in New Zealand

The first successful bottle works in New Zealand was set up in 1922 by the Australian Glass Manufacturers' Company, at Penrose, near Auckland.

For over a hundred years the demand for bottles in New Zealand had been closely related to brewing beer. So it was no surprise that the glass workers were opposed to the introduction of "Prohibition" during the 1920's.

This picture shows a horse-drawn omnibus and members of the Auckland Glass Workers' Union exhorting people to vote for "Continuance" (of liquor sales), in May 1925.

Auckland glass workers campaigning against Prohibition, 1925

Beer was brewed all over New Zealand by the mid-19th century, local breweries re-using bottles from English beer. The shortage of bottles became chronic, and many attempts were made to set up successful bottle and glassworks in New Zealand, all of them failing.

Part of the problem was opposition by bottle importers and the pro-British lobby. So when the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company, major exporters of bottles to New Zealand, built their bottle works in Auckland in 1922, they were careful to seek local favour. Before the factory was finished, they were already advertising in New Zealand.

They took a stand at the 1921/22 Trade Fair (see picture below) and made a real effort to win over local and British industrialists and opinion leaders to the idea of their bottle works.

Their sign at the Trade Fair read:

"These Goods were made at our Australian Works.
We will shortly be manufacturing similar ware at PENROSE
where we will Employ a Large Staff and consume thousands of
For Box Making alone We will use a Large Quantity of N.Z. TIMBER
& for Glass Making we will Export from Britain Soda Ash & Other Chemicals
Victoria Employs Directly 1000 MEN in this Industry. Why Not New Zealand?"

This conciliatory approach seems to have worked, because the factory succeeded and to this day supplies almost the entire bottle requirements of New Zealand.

They solved another problem, shortage of skilled glass workers in New Zealand, by bringing a contingent of staff from Sydney.

The image shows the opening ceremony of the Auckland Bottle Works at Penrose, 1922.