As told by David Wood, Cheviot Veterinarian 1964 - 1997
The practice started in 1954 when the North Canterbury Veterinary Club appointed Neil Bruere to start a branch in Waikari to provide an improved service for the club’s northern members. Until then the club vets travelled from their headquarters in Rangiora and, before the club was formed, private practitioners had travelled from Christchurch.
It's worth mentioning that Veterinary clubs were largely the brainchild of a Scotsman named Alan Leslie. Clubs were set up in some cases by dairy factories to provide veterinary service for their suppliers, or, as in Rangiora, by a group of farmers who clubbed together to employ a veterinarian to attend to the veterinary needs of club members. The central body for veterinary clubs which oversaw the management of the clubs and the employment conditions for veterinarians, was the New Zealand Veterinary Services Council in Wellington. The Council was also responsible for recruiting staff for the clubs by providing bursaries for students to train at overseas universities (mainly in Australia), and by encouraging British and foreign veterinarians to immigrate to New Zealand.
Each club had its own executive of representatives from the various areas from which the members came. At the time when Neil Bruere came to Waikari, Lou Carpenter of Rangiora was the chairman and the executives were Jack Hughey, also of Rangiora, who had been the first chairman; Ian Burbury, Waiau; Ray Maskew, Waipara; George Newton, Waikari-Hawarden; Angus Macdonald, West Eyreton; Newton Maxwell, who had recently taken over from Ron Anderson, Cheviot; and Gilbert Koller, secretary.
The work load increased and soon proved too great for one man who, besides trying to do all the necessary veterinary work was also travelling up to 50,000 miles a year. So, in 1957 Neil asked the executive to employ another vet to assist him. This was refused, but as the stated purpose of the club was to provide veterinary service for the area, the executive granted permission for him to leave their employ but to continue to practice in the area in a private capacity.
In 1958 the private practice was established with Ashley Robinson joining as a partner. This partnership lasted until 1960 when Ashley left, and once again Neil was on his own.
The next plan was to have another partner or assistant in another centre rather than have both veterinarians working from the same clinic, and in 1963 a one-roomed clinic was built in Cheviot. However, before using the Cheviot clinic and before getting an assistant, Neil Bruere was appointed to the staff of the about-to-be-formed New Zealand Veterinary School at Massey University, and his practice was up for sale.
In January 1964, M. E. A. Cartridge and D. J. M. Wood bought the practice and ran it as a partnership known as Cartridge and Wood. The practice was run from the two centres: Waikari, with Mike Cartridge becoming the new resident vet, and the new second centre in Cheviot with David Wood who thus become Cheviot’s first resident vet. In subsequent years there was a number of more or less temporary assistant veterinarians in the Waikari area until 1982, when Noel McGirr was appointed to the new branch clinic in Amberley. In 1985 another branch was established in Culverden under John Turner. Noel and John had both worked in the practice from graduation and returned after a break of a year or two to travel and work overseas. They eventually became partners and the practice changed its name from Cartridge and Wood to Cartridge, Wood and Co., and later to North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics Ltd.
In March 1996 Mike Cartridge retired from the practice and a year later, at the end of March 1997, David Wood also retired leaving the control of North Canterbury Clinics Ltd in the hands of Noel McGirr and John Turner, the remaining two partners, and their employees. These days the practice has grown to employ eighteen vets and a significant number of support staff, vet technicians and sales reps spread over the four centres.
The growth of the practice has followed growth in farm production and the problems that follow increased stocking rates and changes in animal species farmed. Fifty years ago, sheep, beef cattle, and some pigs and horses were the principal concerns of the practice and are still a significant part, but the introduction of exotic breeds have changed the face of sheep and beef farming. Who, in 1954, would have imagined that deer farming would become a major part of the farming industry or that emus, ostriches, goats and alpacas would be farmed, or the change that irrigation has brought to the Culverden basin from a sparse sheep population to thousand cow dairy herds?
Long may changes and growth in farming continue, and long may there be dedicated vets willing to face the challenges of rural life, and, long may the practice of the North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics Ltd continue.