Interview with Mr Jim Anderton

Mr Jim Anderton
Mr Jim Anderton
Minister, The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
Govt. of New Zealand
Govt. of New Zealand

How is the carpet industry contributing towards New Zealand’s textile exports?

New Zealand produces about 45 per cent of the world’s carpet wool. It is exported both as fibre, as wool carpet yarn and as carpet.

New Zealand wool is used by almost every wool carpet and rug manufacturer in the world, because of its uniformity, whiteness and strength.

When leading retailers in markets such as the United States want to differentiate their wool carpet as a luxury item of the highest quality, they will usually cite if it is made from New Zealand wool (identified by the distinctive fern symbol, the Wools of New Zealand brand).

New Zealand’s top destination for wool carpet exports in the 2006/7 year was Australia (valued at $92 million). Other markets include the United States (nearly $1.5 million), the United Kingdom (just under $1 million), Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and Korea.

How does your Ministry view the technical textile industry, which is regarded to be a burgeoning sector these days, and what steps are being taken to foster this sector in New Zealand?

New Zealand is both developing new technical innovations in textiles and applying innovative thinking to its core textile product, wool.

Here are just some examples of technical textile advancements in New Zealand:

  • Strike! is a modified wool fibre which takes up dye more readily than untreated wool, removing the water-repelling surface from the wool to allow quicker and more even dye uptake.

  • Lanasan NCF is a yarn treatment that offers enhanced carpet performance through reduced fibre shedding, improved abrasion resistance and higher yarn strength

  • Linsegal WRD is a rapid-dyeing agent that offers improved dyehouse productivity. The shortened dyeing cycle reduces costs and gives a stronger yarn with reduced yellowing.

  • Sunrise! is a wool fibre used in the bedding sector. It has shrink resist properties achieved through an innovative process carried out during scouring.

  • Innovative new wool fabrics developed by AgResearch, a Crown Research Institute, include a 'Smart singlet' knitted from fibres that can transmit an alarm signal (from a electrical circuit in the garment) if the wearer is shot or incapacitated; a lightweight, comfortable stab and flame proof wool vest; and a woollen business shirt made from a new lightweight, pure wool fabric that's machine washable and shrink resistant without any chemical treatment.

    Other Government funded R&D projects include:

    *Non invasive compression technology (Levana Textiles)

    *Technical chainsaw protective wear (Jaedon Enterprises & Manukau Knitting Mills)

    *Fabric sensing technology (Zephyr Technology)

    *Sustainable merino shrink resistance (Designer Textiles)

    *Machine washable wool bed throws (Maxwell Rodgers)

    *Easy care sleepwear (South Canterbury Textiles)

    Which are all the factors affecting the TCFC (textile clothing footwear carpet) industries as a whole? What do you regard as the bottlenecks for the industry’s performance? How have you planned to solve them?

    Some of the key factors affecting the TCFC industries include soaring global prices for hydrocarbons and the flow-on to synthetic fibre prices, which is making natural fibres more competitive; labour shortages and global shifts in manufacturing; and the burgeoning interest in ‘green’ products and sustainable businesses.

    New Zealand produces the best wool in the world. Yet despite increasing demand for sustainable products worldwide, current returns to farmers, particularly for coarse wool, continue to trend downwards. A new sales model is currently being developed with Government support, which will strongly brand New Zealand wool at the premium end of the market.

    New Zealand as a country is aiming to be the first fully sustainable country in the world. We will leverage our fibres’ advantages and the sustainability of our production – as well as our overall environmental excellence and traceability – to set apart New Zealand products.

    In New Zealand as elsewhere, competitive costs are driving processing and manufacturing offshore. The government provides funding for industry support and capability building, for example, through the DesignTex initiative, a public/private partnership, which aims to link New Zealand textile businesses and build their business expertise, improve production and stimulate investment in the industry.

    DesignTex offers training to lift the industry’s business knowledge, foster leadership abilities, link designers with manufacturers, up-skill workers, and promote collaboration within the sector. It is also building relationships with textile industry leaders in the United Kingdom to develop a marketing gateway into Europe.

    Global competition is getting fiercer day by day. What efforts and policies by your Ministry have helped/ will help your domestic TCFC industries to access the skilled workforce and high tech resources to take on the competition?

    New Zealand does not subsidise any industry. Our government’s role is to work with industry to remove the barriers to compete in global markets. Our Beachheads Programme, for example, helps businesses access successful international executives in South East Asia, the Americas, the United Kingdom, India, the Middle East and China. We are the world’s most isolated developed country, so the scheme helps our exporters learn from the experience of others and accelerate their market entry and growth.

    Increased competition means companies need to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

    One way we do this is by making our products more environmentally sustainable than other countries’ exports. Another way is through the Better by Design programme that helps companies integrate design principles though their business. This includes implementing design-led thinking into innovation and production processes, branding and communications, leadership and company culture. Its focus is on ensuring long term, sustainable growth. New Zealand’s Mokum Textiles is an example of a textiles company that has been through the programme.

    What are your Ministry’s attempts to attract foreign investment for this sector?

    New Zealand is committed to maximising our connections with the world. For example, we have recently signed the first free trade agreement between China and a developed western economy. This opens excellent opportunities for investment in both directions.

    Opportunities such as the DesignTex initiative are helping to create investment-ready opportunities.

    What are your perceptions of the growth potential and surge in TCFC industries in the coming decade?

    The growing interest in sustainable, environmentally friendly products is a very positive trend for New Zealand wool, which is grown on free-roaming sheep that eat grass rather than other types of feed.

    New Zealand companies are taking sustainable products to the world. Tapestry Knitwear was the world’s first commercial knitwear company to be organically certified. Icebreaker is pioneering "Baacode", a new traceability system that helps customers trace their pure merino garments through every step of the production process, starting with the New Zealand high country sheep station where the merino roam. Untouched World has an extensive organic cotton and merino sourcing programme.

    Would you like to say a few words as a parting message to our global visitors and members?

    New Zealand is continuing to develop innovative, high quality textile products.Our focus on sustainable products and businesses is bringing unique products to markets. New Zealand finished products offer distinctive design and inspiration.

    Our range of small and medium-sized businesses means that New Zealand is often able to provide highly customised products and produce a range of volumes, down to smaller batch sizes that can be difficult to obtain or less economic elsewhere.

    Finally, leading technology, flexible cost structures and highly educated, skilled and innovative people make New Zealand an attractive place to do business and invest.

    Published on: 02/06/2008

    DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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