History

The company was founded in Riverton, Southland in 1889 by Thomas Urwin and Messrs Roderique Brothers and by 1893 was established at Colac Bay shipping packed fish to Bluff and then onto Melbourne. The Company then set up in Bluff under the name of Urwin and Roderiques, Fish and Oyster Merchants and undertook oyster dredging under sail.

Thomas Urwin was born in England in 1854 but after the death of his father when he was 11, he left school and went to sea. He eventually arrived in New Zealand, initially settling in Riverton where he was engaged in the New Zealand coastal trade as a Skipper prior to engaging in fishing. It was in Riverton where he met and married his wife Mary Farrell in 1880. Apart from spending three years living in Melbourne, he and his wife settled in Bluff in 1884.

In 1896 Thomas added the first oil engine vessel to the fleet. This was then followed by steam and then diesel.

After 1906 the company name was changed to Urwin and Company Limited and William Urwin (son of Thomas) took charge. Known for his innovation and inventiveness, William designed the present oyster harvesting system of benches, culching (removing the marine material by which an oyster bed is formed) and derricks. In his early days William also built many boats and dinghies. He built the Loongana, the first launch ever to sail Bluff Harbour, which later went to Te Anau. He also built the Tanfield Lea which later went to Stewart Island. He was also a keen yachtsman and owned the Unknown. After the end of World War 2, Raymond Urwin (son of William Urwin) joined the company and during his time as manager, a new factory and 3 new boats were built. In 1978, Raymond’s son Bruce (fourth generation) took on the management of the Company and during his time was responsible for the introduction of the first aluminum oyster boat built in New Zealand (FV Polaris) to join the fleet. Since 2003 the Company is being managed by Bruce’s brother John and sister Barbara.