An invention that straightens iron for reuse has been gifted to a Tongan community group in Rotorua to send back home for the Cyclone Gita clean-up.

Renowned inventor 89-year-old Tom Hayes heard about the island community's plight in the media and got to work.

Hayes, the founder of industrial equipment supplier Hayes International in Rotorua, was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and inventing in 2000.

Some of his notable past inventions include a three-legged ladder, converting an old mobility scooter to tow the recycling bins, and a safety grill made to fit and lock in place under the lid of any sized manhole cover preventing people, animals and rubbish being washed into drains.

Advertisement

This time, the "mastermind" (as described by his engineering comrades) has created a machine that reshapes and rolls out the crinkles in buckled corrugated iron to restore it to its original form.

"I drove my car over the iron, bent it, then put it back through the machine to check it worked," he said.

He estimates the machine is worth about $30,000 when the value of the parts, assembly, and labour is added up.

Previously the damaged iron would have been thrown in the dump in Tonga, but all they need to do now is straighten it out.

Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support president Paea Napa'a said he was "so surprised" when Hayes emailed him with his plans.

Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support members, with Tom Hayes and others who have helped organise to send the machine to Tonga. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support members, with Tom Hayes and others who have helped organise to send the machine to Tonga. Photo / Ben Fraser

Hayes then invited Napa'a to come and see how the invention worked.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
2 Mar, 2018 2:00am
2 minutes to read
ROTORUA DAILY POST
26 Feb, 2018 8:00am
3 minutes to read
ROTORUA DAILY POST
22 Feb, 2018 6:30am
3 minutes to read
ROTORUA DAILY POST
20 Feb, 2018 7:31am
4 minutes to read

"It was very impressive. Just awesome."

Hayes rang around his contacts three-and-a-half weeks ago to find the parts he had listed, a space to assemble the machine, and advice on his sketches.

Eric King, from Scorpro Engineering, helped him create the majority of the machine such as the chassis and the frame, as well as donating parts and welding them together for Hayes.

King said Hayes "keeps a pen and paper beside his bed to write ideas down in the middle of the night".

Hayes International managing director Wayne Kennedy also gave Hayes a hand.

"When I put the idea forward to Wayne he said yes to help before I'd even finished asking," Hayes said.

RoofMan general manager Martin Smith also supplied parts, as well as donating 20,000 nails and screws to send to Tonga to help in the rebuild.

Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support members with 20,000 nails and screws donated by RoofMan. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support members with 20,000 nails and screws donated by RoofMan. Photo / Supplied

Hayes said he had spent most of his 89 years building machines and inventing.

"I will never stop," he said.

When asked if he had patented the roofing invention, he said: "No. If someone wants to copy it, good luck to them,".

Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support has paid for its first container but is still fundraising to send another two to Tonga after Cyclone Gita wreaked havoc there.

Vai Ko Latai Support is a subgroup of a wider organisation, Rotorua Tongan Community, which is also fundraising and sending a container.

The container with Hayes' machine will depart for Tonga early next month.

To donate to Vai Ko Latai Support's container transport, the account number is 06 0507 0376648 00.

To donate to the Rotorua Tongan Community container contact Mata Mafile'o on 027 524 5174 or Ana Paletu'a on 022 653 5232