Canterbury manufacturing starts to grow

GOOD PROSPECTS: Bryan Wilson, general manager of Frank PKS in Christchurch, with the firm's $3 million large pipe-making machine.
GOOD PROSPECTS: Bryan Wilson, general manager of Frank PKS in Christchurch, with the firm's $3 million large pipe-making machine.

Manufacturing looks as if it is beginning to climb out of the doldrums, with Canterbury leading, though jobs are still under pressure.

The good manufacturing news came as NZ Post announced the loss of 100 jobs in Lower Hutt because of the introduction of new technology.

Business New Zealand's Performance of Manufacturing Index shows manufacturing expanding in January except for job numbers.

Canterbury-Westland region is leading growth with a reading of 54.5 on the index, where above 50 marks expansion and below 50 denotes contraction.

The rebuild looks as if it is fuelling some manufacturing expansion locally.

Bryan Wilson, the general manager of FrankPKS, a manufacturer of large pipes for wastewater and stormwater systems, said the company had doubled its capacity last year with a new $3 million machine and was coping well because of that.

"It's fair to say we have good prospects for this year and well into next year, plus there are many opportunities to keep on growing in our market. Yes, we are feeling relatively confident about the next 24 months."

However, Wilson said the Christchurch City Council was making his company's work difficult by using what Wilson claimed was an obsolete document as a reference for repairing and rebuilding broken stormwater and wastewater systems.

"The city council as opposed to Cera and central government are a major obstacle to our work. But that is something you work with each day with them and you usually drag them along kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

"Why would you rebuild the city's infrastructure using the same specifications of the one that just got wrecked in an earthquake?" Wilson asked.

Plastics manufacturer Elastomer Products had not noticed any upward trend yet itself.

Elastomer makes plastic extruded products used as components in many other products like appliances, and in the construction, agriculture and industrial sectors.

They expect to benefit from a construction boom in Christchurch.

Managing director Tom Thomson said a couple of its customers in the building sector were now starting to see a lift in orders.

"It is slowly coming through but it is taking a lot longer than we all expected."

A local aluminium joinery company which did not want to be named said it was "twice as busy" as this time last year with orders from building and housing companies. It had made a decision not to expand or employ more people for the rebuild because that was risky and stressful.

Supply times were lengthening to six weeks from two weeks a year ago, the company said.

Rockcote plaster systems director Mike Olds said the company was "flat out".

He believed the images of damaged brick buildings had benefited those with lighter weight cladding for homes.

The Press