Shifting to Wigram

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2014

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A 104-year-old Christchurch manufacturer has signed a $30 million contract to build a new facility in Wigram.

Skellerup Group, founded in 1910 in Christchurch, yesterday announced that Calder Stewart Industries would build the new dairy rubberware development and manufacturing facility at the Wigram Business Park developed by Ngai Tahu Property. Construction of the 18,900 square metre facility is scheduled to be completed by December 2015.

The 200 staff now employed at the earthquake-damaged Woolston facility were expected to begin the staged transition to Wigram immediately after completion, the company said. The choice to move with 190 staff had been made because the Woolston land would be too expensive to redevelop, as it has been weakened by the quakes.

Skellerup makes agricultural and industrial equipment including the rubber dairy liners and rubber tubing used to take milk from cows in the milking shed into stainless steel vats.

Chief executive David Mair said the new factory was great news for the manufacturing industry in Christchurch.

The factory would provide certainty to staff who had suffered from the quakes and would improve working conditions, he said.

For some of the workers, the relocation could mean a commute of up to 30 minutes, , Mair said, but he hoped to retain all staff.

The new facility would also improve flow and efficiency gains, providing space for a 20 per cent increase in capacity.

"This is another significant step for our dairy business," he said.

The company would keep focusing on the development of dairy rubberware and had no plans to diversify. Mair said the company's growth was focused on exports to Australia, Europe and China. He could not give a specific figure for the company's export growth.

Calder Stewart co-managing director Alan Stewart said the Skellerup project added to the list of significant contracts the company had under way. Total project investment is estimated at approximately $30m, which is partially covered by insurance for the damage to its Woolston site in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

The stock exchange-listed company, founded as Para Rubber by George Skjellerup in 1910, now makes mainly products for the dairy industry, as well as gumboots and industrial rubber components. By 1939, it had set up three rubber factories, a wholesale distribution company and a chain of retail branches. The business was listed as a public company in 1948. The company also has operations in Australia, Britain, the United States, China and Vietnam.

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- The Press

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