The ghosts of chocolate past

Cold, empty and silent — not even an echo of the thousands of people who used to work in the building during the past 150 years. And not a whiff of chocolate. That is today’s reality of Dunedin’s former Cadbury factory.

Since company owner Mondelez International closed the operation earlier this year, the employees have gone and the building has gradually been emptied of machinery, memorabilia and a variety of other items.

Vast rooms, some extending the width of an inner-city block, have been stripped, the absence of machinery only highlighting the actual size of the former factory.

A vast, deserted factory space indicates how large the operation once was. Peter McIntosh
A vast, deserted factory space indicates how large the operation once was. Peter McIntosh
Apart from the cold, it is the lack of sound, whether of voices or machinery, which is so striking as you enter the now-closed factory, which takes up most of the block opposite the Dunedin Railway Station. One of two engineers looking after the building during its decommissioning described it as "spooky" coming in first thing in the morning. No people, no lights, and "it’s very cold", photographer Peter McIntosh and I were told during a guided walk through the site this week. People working on the decommissioning have had to be supplied with thermal clothing because of the intense cold.

They had been used to working in their shirt sleeves, as the factory machinery generated temperatures of more than 30degC. A giant 500kg Easter bunny mould stands guard near the entrance to the downstairs area, formerly the entry point for raw materials. Inside, shelves full of white factory coats and overalls are reminders of the number of people who used to work here.

Empty concrete staircases lead upstairs to more vast rooms, all deserted, silent and very cold.

Lockers previously used by Cadbury employees stand empty.
Lockers previously used by Cadbury employees stand empty.

Safety warnings and other signs are still in place, but there are no staff to read or heed them.

At one end of the staff cafeteria stand hundreds of metal lockers. A kitchen has seen busier times.

On the far wall of the room, alongside a large Mondelez company banner with the message "together", is a large noticeboard covered by many paper notices. Across the top several signs tell us  — "Jobs Here". Emerging from the cold, empty, silent site, we still cannot smell the chocolate. 

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