Topic: History of the Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum

Topic type:

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum started its life as a community trust. The trust was formed in early 2000 when, due to changes in the local industry, a group of concerned residents were worried that the unique history of Kawerau was in danger of being lost. The Kawerau Historical Museum Trust became official on 25 May 2000 and work began to collect material of historical importance to the town. The trust was run entirely by volunteers and was funded through community grants and other fundraising ventures.

Residents who attended the first meeting of the trust were:

  • Anita Moore - Chairperson 
  • Zita King – Secretary 
  • Maureen Laugesen - Treasurer      
  • Ron Rose      
  • June ter Ellen      
  • Win Lunt      
  • Wim Leenan
  • Lois Pook  
  • Tania Humberstone

Who was Sir James Fletcher? 

Sir James Fletcher (Junior) was one of the driving forces of the Tasman mill and the pulp and paper industry for which Kawerau was formed. The son of Sir James Snr, Jim or JC joined the family business of Fletcher Holdings at a young age. He quickly showed a knack for business and at age 25 took over the reins to become Managing Director of Fletcher Holdings. Sir James battled hard to establish the Tasman Mill.

In honour of his contribution to Kawerau and the local industry, the museum trust approached Sir James asking if they could incorporate his name into that of the museum’s. He agreed and on 10 February 2003 the museum’s name was officially changed to the Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum by which it is still known today.

The Council steps in

Collecting, cataloguing and preserving the historical material of a whole town is a mammoth task that takes a lot of resources. As time progressed the museum trust realised they could do with some help so approached the Kawerau District Council. On January 1 2009 the Council took over the management of the museum and Irene Sandle was appointed Museum Curator.

A second position was established in 2011 so Irene was joined first by Toni Edmeades (Sept 2011 – Feb 2013), then Andy Scott (Aug – Oct 2013) and Kim Naysmith began in February 2014.

Since Council has taken over we have developed our exhibition space and purchased Vernon software to help with cataloguing. We have also done a lot of work around processes and preserving the information the trust gathered in its early days.

Council has purchased 16 – 18 Jellicoe Court and is currently working on plans to turn this into a storage/working space for the museum.


What does the Museum do?

The aim of the Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum is to encourage an appreciation and understanding of the Kawerau District’s cultural, social and industrial heritage. We aim to collect objects and photographs that relate to Kawerau’s history, its people and their activities while also capturing some of the things that make Kawerau unique today.

Behind the scenes we spend our time:      

  • cataloguing new donations and the objects we already have 
  • researching customer queries      
  • packaging objects to preserve them for years to come     
  • researching and preparing for upcoming exhibitions

The Museum has accumulated a large amount of historic memorabilia and photographs over the years, largely due to donations from the public. The challenge now is to preserve and catalogue the material so it can be displayed and enjoyed by the local community and visitors to our town.

We are always interested in potential donations and information so feel free to pop in to the Museum with anything you may have
or if you have a query about something.

 Ref: Kawerau Historical Museum Trust minutes 2000-2008; Kawerau District Council 2014.