Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Four Fletcher factories in Auckland to re-open

Dozens of Auckland staff at the $6 billion Fletcher Building are preparing to return to work this week at four Penrose and Onehunga factories.

Staff will resume work at two Winstone Wallboards, Tasman Insulation and Pacific CoilCoaters factories, supplying products nationally where construction sites can operate on lower alert levels.

The Government yesterday announced a U-turn on the Auckland manufacturing ban under alert level 4. Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Building and Construction Minister Poto Williams said some plants could operate to supply materials needed outside Auckland to allow the $26b a year construction sector to continue.

The Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment will manage the process of eligible companies to ensure the work is being done safely under level 4 rules, Williams said.

“The products must be a critical component of residential construction, there is limited supply and manufacturers must have health and safety measures in place to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

“Plasterboard, gypsum plaster, coated roofing steel and insulation meet this criteria.”

A Fletcher spokesman said today Tasman Insulation making Pink Batts, Pacific CoilCoaters making ColourCote steel and aluminium roofing products and Winstone Wallboards making GIB board and plaster would resume operations after the Government change.

But the Health Order first needed to be signed off, the businesses had a huge amount of work to do before re-opening, production might resume later this week and distribution could begin early next week, he said.

All four plants would be run with strict new health and safety measures in place to ensure anti-pandemic protocols were adhered to, he said.

Winstone Wallboards has two plants: one makes the GIB plaster for gib stopping, the other makes the board itself.

The plants are around the Great South Rd and Onehunga areas.

Tasman Insulation is at Holloway Pl where it has been making the batts since 1961. Its furnace needs to be reignited for manufacturing to resume, using the spun glass fibre method.

Hamish McBeath, chief executive of Fletcher’s building products division, is in charge of the huge reboot exercise, running the business while most other parts of the company stay shut.

“We are starting to mobilise people working through safety reinductions and commencing heating the plants. However, full production won’t be achieved until the end of the week with despatch aimed for Monday,” McBeath said today.

The building products division employs more than 2000 staff in about 60 manufacturing, distribution and sales sites in New Zealand.

Those staff create products for homes, buildings and infrastructure including insulation, plasterboard, steel products, laminate surfaces and plastic and concrete piping.

Winstone Wallboards, Laminex New Zealand, Tasman Insulation, Humes, Iplex Pipelines New Zealand, and joint venture Altus are in the highly profitable division which also runs steel businesses under the Fletcher Steel brand.

Winstone Wallboards is New Zealand’s only manufacturer and largest marketer of gypsum plasterboard, drywall systems, and associated products and services. The company has been operating since 1927 and manufactures plasterboard systems under the GIB brand.

Its Onehunga plant will be shut once Fletcher finishes construction of its new $400m Bay of Plenty plasterboard plant, due to open in 2023. The new plant is much larger and planned to be more efficient.

Ross Taylor, Fletcher chief executive, said in announcing the new plant last year: “Our current site in Onehunga is landlocked which has prevented us from expanding our operations and improving efficiencies by consolidating manufacturing and distribution on the same site. The site located in the Tauriko industrial park is more than double the size of the current facility and will allow for even further capacity growth in the future.”

Tasman Insulation makes products for homes, commercial and industrial complexes and has PinkFit installers and Sisalation building foils and underlays businesses.

ColorCote is pre-painted steel and aluminium roofing and cladding products, made here since 1973.

Fletcher’s building products division made $1.4b revenue in the year to June 30, 2021, up on the $1.1b previously. Revenue rose 19 per cent due to strong demand from the residential and infrastructure sector, the company said.

Fletcher shares are trading here around $7.47, nearly double the $3.69 a year ago.

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