A $1.3 million supply contract for the Karapiro Viaduct has been awarded to a New Zealand company.
Contractor HEB Construction awarded the contract to Napier steel bridge specialist Eastbridge despite receiving competitive Chinese tenders. The firm will supply 1300 tonnes of prefabricated steel for the 200-metre-long, 40m-high Karapiro Viaduct, the largest of eight bridges on the Cambridge section of the NZ Transport Agency's Waikato Expressway.
Eastbridge managing director Bruce Mellsop said there was local and international competition for the contract.
"Based on upfront price alone, it's very hard for local firms to compete with Chinese companies. But, when other factors are taken into account, such as local economic spinoffs and risks around the quality of imported prefabricated steel, New Zealand fabricated steel is very competitive. So it's great to see procurers taking a bigger-picture approach."
HEB Structures general manager Noel Band said it was a close call.
"Initially there was a considerable cost difference between the local and overseas bids but, when risk-related factors were considered, the price difference shrunk."
He said other factors, including local business relationships and the impact on the local economy, helped "swing the decision" to Eastbridge.
Steel Construction New Zealand manager Alistair Fussell said the increase in construction activity around the country meant demand for structural steel was growing. "As the demands on the local steel-fabrication sector increase, procurers will naturally look offshore. Our main concern is that they need to be aware of the risks around imported prefabricated steel."
He said imported steel might not comply to New Zealand standards, and could lead to costly inspections and repairs.
"Procurers, particularly those in the public sector, must consider all the risks when sourcing offshore, as well as the economic and social impact for New Zealand."
Eastbridge estimated the government would lose $800,000 in tax revenue if the steelwork was procured offshore.