A new business venture, fronted by Kiwi rowing champion Mahé Drysdale, has revived a New Zealand knitting factory which was on the verge of closure.
The Bary Knitting Mills factory in Marton, near Palmerston North, had declined due to off-shore competition, predominantly from China; the world's largest processer and supplier of wool products.
Managing director of Bary Knitting Mills, Campbell Bary, says China's increasing dominance in the textiles industry had made it very hard for factories like his to compete and he had planned to close his business.
"While we used to produce about 130,000 woollen jerseys annually for the local and international market more than a decade ago, we now are currently down to producing just 3000," he says.
Now the Marton-based factory will remain open and be used to produce a possum fur belt created to ease back pain. The product is believed to help relax muscles and promote blood supply, he says.
Drysdale, who was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2010, and was instrumental in getting the Nature's Support product to market, says he's pleased the new business will bring more employment opportunities to the area and help the eight out of 10 Kiwis who are currently diagnosed with back pain.
"I'm really excited to hear that our decision to manufacture at the local mill will bring more jobs to the rural community. We think the product will be in high demand and that 90% of our sales will be in overseas markets, including Europe, the United States and Asia," he says.
Managing director of Natures Support, Jeremy Kerr, says the company spent a year testing the product nationwide. However it was Drysdale's success story which was particularly impressive.
Drysdale says it was a retired Wanganui Farmer, Colin Cox, who suggested that he try the eco-friendly possum product to relieve his symptoms.
"From that point I have worn the belt daily," he says. "I wanted it to be comfortable and not noticeable so I could wear it underneath my shirt when I'm rowing.
"Now, it's a fundamental part of my day. There's always a slight lump around my stomach, but it's not a fat roll," he says.
Kerr says to create a product free of chemicals which consumers' skin might react to, a unique process was developed which draws on techniques used by Palaeolithic cavemen for processing animals skins using natural, tree resin tannins.
For more information, visit www.naturessupport.co.nz