A Waikanae possum-skin golf glove manufacturer has secured a deal with Fila Global to manufacture golf gloves for the South Pacific, with plans to expand into Europe.
Greg Howard has been lobbying the Government for about 10 years to create a "mini-Fonterra" from possums, describing the pests as "dollars sitting in trees".
"They just have to be caught. We can create jobs, especially for Northland Maori, and factories to produce four products already being marketed - pet food, possum leather, possum fur and pelts.
"There are 60 to 70 million possum sitting on our back doorstep," Howard said.
Sitting at his desk one day planning how to progress with his company Planet Green, he came up with the idea of taking the fur off the possum pelt and manufacturing top-range golf gloves under a global brand.
About two years ago, a licensee of top sports brand Fila, which is affiliated with several top golfers, placed its first order for 5000 pairs of gloves, which went on sale in the United States and Canada.
The deal came about after Howard attended the Canadian PGA golf show in 2009, supported by a $20,000 market development grant from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
During the Rugby World Cup in 2011 he made the official RWC golf glove, supplying retailers such as BP and Canterbury clothing stores.
Planet Green also exports to Australia and Howard has designed a spandex golf glove for Singapore brand Big Fish Golf.
The first order for Big Fish, which uses his product as a gold card glove, was for 3500 pairs of gloves last year. He has also picked up Japanese brand Big Yard and is investigating a deal with Izulu, based in South Africa.
He met with Fila in Korea, where the glove was praised for its durability, grip, weight and for being environmentally friendly.
As a result, Howard has been given the licence to manufacture the gloves under the Fila brand throughout the South Pacific, including Australia.
His first order for Australia was for 500 dozen pairs and another order is being processed now. He was looking at manufacturing 30,000 pairs for Fila by the end of the year.
Fifteen-year-old Kiwi golf star Lydia Ko has been seen in the media wearing the Fila brand.
Howard buys the skins in Whangarei and has them made into gloves in Jakarta.
He is is now setting his sights on Europe.
In the meantime, in a move to help young Kiwi golfers under the Fila brand, Howard has started sponsoring college golf in Wellington.
- The Dominion Post