In Petone, an industrial warehouse property with connections to the suburb's former automotive assembly industry and which has not been for sale on the open market for more than 70 years, is to be auctioned.

Andrew Smith of Bayleys Wellington is marketing the property with colleague Richard Faisandier and will take the property to auction on October 26.

Smith says the 1568sqm corner site is zoned General Business and is held in two separate titles. The buildings have 625sqm of lettable space and are leased to Rebound Clothing which will vacate the property at the end of April 2018.

The Bayleys agents say the site is likely to be of interest to proactive developers looking to leverage off the location and the shortage of available industrial property for sale in the wider Wellington region. The harbour views from the property are a drawcard.


"There's holding income for a new owner of $91,650 per annum which would effectively buy some time while redevelopment plans were formulated," says Smith.

The property's private chain of ownership among various families with a connection to the wool felting company, means that the property hasn't been on the open market since the late 1940s.

Wool felting is a fading industry in New Zealand due to the popularity of artificial fibres and the move to manufacturing offshore.

However, back in the days when Petone was a hub for automotive assembly, the property in Waione St was home to a very busy and successful business turning wool fibres into felt, primarily for use in car upholstery, but also for carpet underlay and mattress-spring protection.

The process of wool felting on a large scale involves putting wool through a flock machine to shred and tease the fibres before laying it out on a mechanised loom where it is then needle-punched by thousands of individual needles.

A wheel from a ceiling-mounted crane remains from the building's manufacturing heritage. Photo / Supplied
A wheel from a ceiling-mounted crane remains from the building's manufacturing heritage. Photo / Supplied

The vendors of the property - brothers John and Andrew Masseurs - say at the height of its production, the felting company had a very loyal, long-standing workforce and employed up to 30 people.

"Petone was a hive of manufacturing activity pre-1980s and the automotive industry was responsible for much of that," says John Masseurs.

"Our company supplied that industry with wool felt for upholstery and also supplied the carpet industry with felted underlay, along with the bed manufacturing sector where the wool felt was used to protect the springs in inner-sprung mattresses."

When tariff protections in the New Zealand motor industry were completely removed in the 1990s and it became cheaper to import fully-assembled cars, the demand for Petone's felted wool products declined as numerous car assembly plants closed their doors.

"Around a decade ago, the other markets we supplied largely moved to using polyester and other man-made fibres. It's all reflective of a changing economy and a shift to manufacturing more cheaply offshore," John Masseurs says.

The Waione St wool-felting plant was decommissioned in 2005 but vestiges of the former factory remain in the form of a wheel from the ceiling-mounted crane that was used to hoist machinery up for on-site engineers to maintain and repair.

The siblings say they feel a strong family connection to the property and will particularly miss the views, but the property deserves to be placed with purchasers who will better utilise its attributes.

"Petone is enjoying a revival in popularity and the opportunity to see the site re-developed is exciting," says John Masseurs.

Smith says that given the profile and location of the site, it's ripe for major redevelopment. "Industrial property is in high demand in the Wellington region and there's simply not enough good quality stock available - nor is there any vacant land coming on-stream in the broader Petone area.

"There's no denying the strong underlying fundamentals of this site and with major multinationals already having a presence in the area, this could be a development opportunity with legs."