After Māori arrived in New Zealand, from around 1250, they discovered the useful properties of flax. The nectar from its flowers made a sweet drink. The roots could be crushed to make poultices for skin infections, and to produce a juice with disinfectant and laxative properties. The gum from the base of the leaves eased pain and healed wounds, especially burns. The leaves themselves could be used as bandages and to secure broken bones.
Once a flourishing industry – 170 mills in the 1870s and 5% of exports by value – technology (steamships replacing sail, no need for rope…) and other competing natural products pulled the rug out from under its feet.
Government subsidies supported production until the 1970s (government subsidies supported ALL production in that era…) and the last mill closed in 1985.
These days, it feeds birds…..