Hands off our cheese rolls, Timaru

SARAH MCCARTHY AND LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014
cheese rolls
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/Fairfax NZ

HOUSE SPECIALITY: H & J Smith Copper Kettle front of house supervisor Gina Todd with a platter of cheese rolls.

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Southland's cultural heritage is under fire with South Canterbury trying to claim the title of cheese roll capital of New Zealand.

This week the Timaru Herald fired off a shot that South Canterbury had eclipsed Southland as the cheese roll capital after discovering schools had made 208,484 rolls for fundraisers.

Then Timaru district councillor and police officer Steve Wills went one step further and yesterday issued a challenge to a cheese roll taste-off.

To rub it in, Timaru Mayor Damon Odey reminded Southlanders swimming legend Danyon Loader grew up in Timaru and used cheese rolls as a fundraiser for his swimming.

But Southlanders came back firing with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English saying Southlanders should be assured of their hold on the title.

"It's not about quantity, it's about quality," he said.

"They can't replicate the combination of taste and atmosphere that makes the southern cheese roll so unique. So they're just pretenders trying to boost themselves."

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt was equally dismayed by the usurping of our rightful title.

"It's a worse attack, in a way, than the Australians stealing our pavlovas, because (South Canterbury) are supposed to be our next-door neighbours. At least with the Aussies we knew they were the enemy from day one but with Timaru we thought we had a friend," he said.

"You'd think there'd be an element of solidarity but, oh well. If they're going to start trouble ..."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong was "absolutely disgusted" and surprised to have to deal with a territorial dispute so early in his mayoralty.

"I never thought I'd have to go further up the country to do battle like this."

Tong lived in Timaru in the early 1950s and said he never heard of the cheese roll until he moved to Southland in 1980.

"I'm actually heading to a mayoral forum in Gore and I'll be raising the point there as well," he said. "I'm sure that we will be going straight through Timaru from now on and not stopping for a custard square."

Former Southland MP Mark Peck could not believe what he was hearing.

Now a Wellington City Councillor and owner of Wellington cafe Little Peckish, Peck said he often got into debate with cafe customers who claimed his famous Southland cheese rolls were actually from Otago.

But to hear South Canterbury was trying to claim the Southland delicacy was even worse. "Where do they think they come from?"

Peck's cheese rolls were a hit in Wellington, but the recipe came from his wife's mother and had been passed through the family.

"She learned the art of making cheese rolls at her mother's knee, it's authentically Southland."

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