Iconic New Zealand pottery brand Crown Lynn searches for former Pasifika workers

One of New Zealand's iconic brands is on the search to find the people of Pasifika heritage who worked at their factory in west Auckland.  

Crown Lynn, which made the popular classic Kiwiana pottery for decades, wants to hear the stories of Island families who moved here during the labour shortages of the 1970s.

These plates and cups bring back vivid childhood memories for west Auckland resident Yvette Guttenbeil Po'uhila.

"It's so familiar to me. It's like looking at old toys or something," Po'uhila said.

Crown Lynn made some of our most popular household ceramics more than 60 years ago but has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as sought-after collectables.

But little is known about the migrant Pacific workers who came to work on the factory floor.

Po'uhila's father came out from Tonga in 1973 and got a job as a foreman at the west Auckland factory.  

Po'uhila and her mother arrived the following year, and her mum also got work there.

"They came despite the lack of language, despite the racism, despite all of that, they tried to make it work because there was a bigger goal, a bigger vision," Po'uhila said.

Her family's story is just one of the hundreds the Te Toi Uku Crown Lynn Museum wants to hear from. 

"A lot of that generation are getting older and we need to sort of hear what the realities were like, what the lived experience was like," Te Toi Uku Crown Lynn Museum director Louise Stevenson said.

In the early 1960s Crown Lynn was the largest producer of domestic pottery in the Southern Hemisphere and by 1971 was churning out 400,000 pieces a week. That massive output needed workers and Crown Lynn looked to the islands.

"Off the backs of Pacific people who came looking for better opportunities an industry grew," Po'uhila said. 

Crown Lynn also provided housing and after the Dawn Raids that targeted Pacific overstayers helped get families like Po'uhila's get their permanent residence.

"They couldn't let go of the workers. There was just too many of them to let go," Po'uhila said.

Now the museum is fighting for its survival, a target of Auckland Council budget cuts.

"When we say we support arts and culture in the Whau we do. This is one of the places we're talking about so it'll be a huge decision to even reduce the funding for it," Whau Board Deputy chairperson Fasitua Amosa said.

"I'm really grateful for this project that this story can be told," Po'uhila said.

To uncover a missing chapter in this beloved brand's history.