Carpet-maker Bremworth is looking to bring in staff from its cyclone-flooded Napier plant as it looks to boost production at its Whanganui yarn-spinning plant by at least 30 per cent.
Last week, the company offered voluntary redundancy to 130 staff at its woollen yarn plant in Napier, which was badly flooded during Cyclone Gabrielle.
CEO Greg Smith says workers in Napier have three weeks to decide whether to make the move or not.
But regardless, the company is looking to increase production in Whanganui.
“We have a very highly skilled team in Napier who we don’t have work for there,” he said.
“Everybody’s got different life situations to consider, but ultimately, we would love to fill all the Whanganui roles with people from Napier.”
There are around 12 jobs on offer in Whanganui, with the company also looking to start making woollen spun yarn at the plant.
Smith said he aimed to “super-charge the production” in Whanganui.
But growth in Whanganui would not make up for the loss of Napier.
The Whanganui plant accounted for 20-25 per cent of yarn production, whereas the Napier plant produced around 70-75 per cent of yarn and all of Bremworth’s dyed fibre.
“Making that plant bigger and better certainly does have potential in Whanganui, but we need to get through the insurance process first to come to a view on Napier.”
The damage to the Napier plant during Cyclone Gabrielle had disrupted the production chain between all of Bremworth’s plants.
“We got to a point where all three plants were not working.”
To cope, Bremworth had since secured dyed fibre from a Christchurch-based dying facility, and was licensing a dye house there which Napier team members travelled to work at on a weekly basis.
Bremworth was also trialing a number of overseas yarn suppliers to support production.
Smith said the current climate was tough for farmers who were supplying wool.
“There’s a very big issue at the moment, because the wool prices are so low that it costs our growers - once they’ve paid for shearing and they get the cheque for the wool clip, they’re in the negative.
“It’s a really interesting and difficult time for the wool industry as a whole as we try to get consumers to come on board with wool.”
Smith said Bremworth was not facing supply issues yet and had enough wool to to fulfil the company’s requirements.
He said it was still too early to say whether the long-standing plant in Napier will close or be rebuilt, as its insurer is working through how much will be paid for the damages
The estimated cost to rebuild the site is in the “tens of millions of dollars”, according to assessments to date.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.