Woodshield looks to set up shop

CHLOE WINTER
Last updated 12:54 22/08/2014
Post
UNTREATED: Australian company Woodshield says its posts have the same lifespan and toughness as polyethylene but are chemical free.

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An Australian timber post company is looking to set up shop in Marlborough to cater to the growing demand for chemical-free vineyard posts.

Woodshield, a company based in Melbourne, began researching plastic-coated untreated pine posts in 2003.

Eleven years on, the company has a strong market in Marlborough and wants to establish a manufacturing operation in the region.

They say their posts have the same lifespan and toughness as polyethylene, and are chemical free and virtually maintenance free.

Woodshield sales manager Ashley Davidson said a group of Australia and New Zealand investors had been exploring the possibility for a while and were looking for companies in the area to provide ongoing timber supplies.

"We are talking to people at the moment - it's very stop start, stop start . . . [but] we've done a bit of due diligence on the market."

Demand in Marlborough for "organically-approved trellis posts" had grown as more vineyards strived to be more sustainable, he said.

The idea of the Marlborough operation was to use raw materials from New Zealand and cater for that market directly. "The demand is definitely there."

According to New Zealand Winegrowers, 94 per cent of the country's vineyard producing area is certified by sustainability and/or organic programmes.

Woodshield had been selling the posts through Marlborough Organics for the past four years, and sold to "quite a few" Marlborough vineyards, Davidson said.

"The markets are ticking along. We have got a fair amount to get to Constellation."

Woodshield had 70,000 plus posts to get to Marlborough by next year. 

If the company set up in Marlborough it would continue to sell to Marlborough Organics and other interested companies, he said.

Marlborough Organics co-director John Sowman said he would welcome Woodshield to the region because it would be more cost-effective for his customers.

They had about 35 customers, including Babich Wines, Villa Maria Estate, Pernod Ricard New Zealand and a few smaller wineries and vineyard owners, he said. He believed his customer base would grow if Woodshield moved into town, he said.

It was difficult to dispose of treated posts, he said.

"You only have to go around to a few of the vineyards and go out the back to see the post cemetery - piles of posts just building up and building up, so I'm sure the vineyards and wineries would like to see more options."

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Meanwhile, a Marlborough man who has been researching durable untreated vineyard posts made from eucalypt trees for more than a decade, said he was "interested" to hear that Woodshield could be coming to Marlborough.

Paul Millen, of the New Zealand Dryland Forest Initiative, is testing his posts on about 10 vineyards in Marlborough. The project is supported by the Marlborough Research Centre."We knew that the wine industry was looking at alternatives right from early on . . . it will be good to get the opportunity to talk with them about it," Millen said.

The wine industry was always looking at new sustainable practices in the vineyards, he said.

However, he was concerned that wine tourists might not like the look of plastic-coasted post.

"When people look at a vineyard they like to see wood."

Millen believed there were about 15 million posts in the region.

- The Marlborough Express

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