Champ rescues jobs

By Lin Ferguson lin.ferguson@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

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With the backing of Olympic rowing champ Mahe Drysdale, a Marton factory has been saved from closure as it goes into full production making possum belts.

Marketed as naturesupport, orders for the belts, which boast health benefits, are already coming in from Europe, Australia and throughout New Zealand.

The innovative belts are being rolled out from Bary Knitwear in Marton, which had been in the process of winding up.

Owner Campbell Bary said the contract was perfect timing.

"These days China and India are at the helm of clothing manufacture worldwide, and I'm delighted with this completely New Zealand product ... My local workers can continue working."

Its product ambassador is Olympic single-sculls gold medallist Mahe Drysdale, who testifies to its powers to ease the arthritis he suffers in his lower back.

It was invented by Wanganui man Colin Cox, a pioneer in deer farming and the possum clothing industry for its health benefits.

He says it is one of his greatest accomplishments.

Owners of new company naturesupport, Aucklander Jeremy Kerr and Woodville Bush Tannery owner Steve Boot, are thrilled production is now under way and say the future for the product is very bright.

Bush Tannery produces 80 per cent of New Zealand's possum fur.

Mr Kerr described Mr Bary as an icon in New Zealand knitwear and garment manufacturing.

"It couldn't have worked out better - Campbell is the absolute expert when it comes to garment manufacture."

If the business grew, it was expected to bring more employment to Marton, and it was exciting to finally get the belt to the market after long, intense trials, he said. "Steve Boot has perfected a natural tanning process which leeches all metal or chemicals from the skins ...

"It has taken a lot of research. But it's worth it - it's a 100 per cent natural product."

Drysdale said three years ago his rowing career was in doubt because of a disc injury that led to the onset of osteoarthritis. He started trialling the belt about 18 months ago.

"I started wearing the belt during training and in competitions. The relief and support was amazing and has enabled me to continue with my career.

"It has been with me on a daily basis since and played a part in helping me achieve the results I have over the past few years."

According to Mr Kerr, the belt provides relief to lower back problems through use of a hollow fur fibre product found in the brush tail possum.

"This unique fibre is hollow, so it can breathe and provide thermal stability to the area of the back where it is positioned. The belt maintains a constant temperature several degrees warmer than the skin surface.

"It helps prevent perspiration and condensation building up on the skin and the hollow fibre allows the surface moisture to evaporate away."

It sells for between $197-$212.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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