Shake-up may help chimney firm

Local solution to chimney problem

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:00 24/01/2014
bond

LIGHTWEIGHT: Steve Bond of Fibreglass Developments in Feilding with one of his company's fibreglass chimneys.

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A Feilding company making chimneys that weigh as little as 40 kilograms could have had just the lift it needs to bring the business out of receivership.

Chimneys across the wider Manawatu region swayed, cracked, and some in Palmerston North had to be demolished after Monday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake.

The Earthquake Commission had received 1363 claims relating to the Wellington Anniversary Day quake as of yesterday, more than 400 of them from Palmerston North.

"Not to sound macabre at all, but the earthquake couldn't have come at a better time for us," Fibreglass Developments Ltd owner Stephen Bond said. "People will be scratching their heads about what to do about their chimneys and we've got the answer right here locally."

FDL has been making and testing the durability of the predominantly fibreglass composite chimneys in its Mahinui St factory.

The company called in receivers in May 2012, resulting in the loss of 16 jobs but has been working hard to get out of receivership and is now talking about re-hiring to meet the work it has.

Mr Bond said the contract for the chimneys with Palmerston North company Quake Proof Chimneys, which markets and sells them, could be the "bread and butter" for the business in years to come.

The custom-designed replica brick chimneys sell for between $3000 and $10,000, depending on size and the type of installation required.

Mr Bond says it will solve a lot of issues, not only for people with already-damaged chimneys but also those with brick chimneys who want to keep their insurance.

"It has the look and it's only really a touch test that will tell you it's not brick. There's insurance companies out there now who won't even insure a house if it's got a brick chimney, so this is a way to let you keep the image of the villa and keep your insurance.

Quake Proof Chimneys chief executive Phil Gardiner said a fire-retardant fibreglass chimney was not a new concept but demand for them in New Zealand had only existed after the Christchurch quakes. "It's all about safety really. The average chimney is the same weight as a car - a standard five foot chimney weighs probably close to 1.2 tonne. You have a car sitting on your roof, but no-one seems to know that until it comes crashing through the roof."

Mr Gardiner said the chimneys were being sold nationally but the quake would put the state of Manawatu chimneys at the forefront of most homeowners' minds.

EQC national operations manager Barry Searle said claims received so far had been for mostly minor damage to homes or damaged contents.

Once EQC gets a better idea of the likely numbers it is dealing with, it will mobilise assessors to inspect earthquake damage.

WHAT TO DO

People who have suffered damage to their home, land or contents from the Eketahuna earthquake have until April 22 to lodge their claim with the Earthquake Commission.

Claims can be made online at eqc.govt.nz/claims, by calling 0800 326 243 or by emailing info@eqc.govt.nz. EQC covers earthquake damage to homes, usually up to $100,000 plus GST, contents, usually up to $20,000 plus GST, and some residential land. Claimants must have had a fire insurance contract with an insurance company at the time of the earthquake to make a claim.

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*An earlier version of this story said Fibreglass Developments Ltd was in voluntary liquidation. It is in fact in receivership. The error is regretted. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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