A Wanganui company, formed only five years ago ? Safety and Medical Manufacturing Ltd ? has won a major three-part Government contract to make a total of 20 million surgical procedure masks and duck bill-type respirator filter mask.
The duck bill masks, which seal completely around the mouth and nostril of all types of faces, have been designed as a protection against viral attacks, such as bird flu, dust from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and explosions.
The surgical mask, while a more general-purpose mask which can also be used by tradesmen, is stronger than the usual surgical mask.
Both masks had been made for New Zealand use, but also had great export potential, company general manager Guy Collins told Minister of Health Pete Hodgson, who toured the company's factory yesterday.
The contract also included stockpiling sufficient raw material and ensuring there was always a large number of masks on hand, as research showed there was a world wide shortage of good quality filter masks, Mr Collins said.
Although only set up in Wanganui five years ago, Safety and Medical Manufacturing Ltd is a family business started by Brian Bland 35 years ago in South Africa.
When members of Mr Bland's family emigrated to New Zealand the company relocated to Wanganui and as such is the only one of its type in the country.
"Our principal aim is to manufacture as much as possible in New Zealand. We have to import some raw materials, but we enjoy controlling our destiny," Mr Collins, who is Mr Bland's son-in?law, said.
Safety and Medical Manufacturing Ltd has a staff of 12.
Its wide range of quality products, including first aid kits and para medical devices, are sold throughout the world.