By Doug Laing
The Hawke's Bay-based company that is now the world's biggest scourer of wool has committed $2.4 million aimed at helping New Zealand lead the way in the global wool market.
The investment comes in the form a contribution by WoolWorks, the sole-surviving scourer from 28 that once clogged the industry throughout the country and formed around what was best known as Hawke's Bay Woolscourers.
The world's biggest scourer by volume, it operates scours at Awatoto and Clive, and in the South Island at Washdyke. The contribution supports new industry-good organisation Wool Impact Ltd, which will work with brands and companies to get strong-wool products onto markets quickly and ultimately lift returns to farmers.
It comes as the sheep and wool industry starts bouncing back from declines which have seen the sheep population nationwide drop from its peak of 70 million in 1982 to 26 million last year – about two-thirds.
The sheep population in Hawke' Bay, once among the densest in the world, had dropped by an even greater degree, from over nine million to about 2.5 million.
At the centre of a revival are the environmental concerns over plastics and restoring the status of biodegradable wool and establishing greater uses, the need for which was again highlighted in a casual walk on a beach in the US for Napier-based Wool Works chief executive Nigel Hales.
He said just after returning to New Zealand: "Plastic particles all along the beach. It's got to change."
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The new step has been established following nearly four years of discussions between industry stakeholders and the Government to find the most effective ways of addressing the long-time lack of performance in the wool sector.
Maja Sliwinski, investment director at WoolWorks part-owner Tanarra Capital Partners, said the investment in Wool Impact Ltd demonstrates the company's confidence in the sector and the future of wool.
"WoolWorks is committed to the long-term future and betterment of the New Zealand wool industry," she said. "There is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we like what we see in Wool Impact Ltd's three-year work programme. We are confident that Wool Impact Ltd will help steer the wool industry back onto a more sustainable and profitable path."
Co-shareholder David Ferrier said New Zealand is set to benefit from the increasing popularity of wool as a natural fibre.
"Wool is growing in stature in the drive towards using more sustainable and natural products as a replacement for oil-based products," he said. "Wool is uniquely placed to take advantage of this trend and WoolWorks wants to be doing our bit to make sure this happens."
The move was also welcomed by Strong Wool Action Group Ltd executive officer Andy Caughey, who said the commitment from WoolWorks is a significant investment and an important contribution that will support the vital activities of Wool Impact Ltd, which will "act as the catalyst for transformational change over the next three years."
"Wool Impact Ltd will provide a united and effective strong wool industry voice and provide strong wool sector services across data, training insights and standards," he said.