Whanganui helmets a hit on world stage

Pacific Helmets is a world leader in safety helmets, which are being put to go use here by the Carterton Fire Brigade. Photo credit: Supplied

Not many New Zealand companies can boast the London Fire Brigade among their client list.

For Whanganui exporter Pacific Helmets, the brigade is just one of many global clients.

Pacific Helmets was founded in 1982 to manufacture motorcycle helmets for the Australasian market, however later expanded its range of products to include fire, rescue, sports, and ATV helmets.

The company now employs 70 people, and manufactures and supplies safety helmets to fire brigades across New Zealand and the world, including Australia, Asia, USA, Europe and the UK - all from its base in Whanganui.

Despite its global customers, Pacific Helmets founder and owner, David Bennett said Whanganui is an excellent place for the business to be headquartered.

Helmets manufactured in Whanganui are heading off around the world. Photo credit: Supplied

"I had an Auckland bank manager say to me once, I can't understand why you are still in Whanganui, and I said I know exactly why," he said.

"It's got all the conveniences of a provincial city, it's a good size, we can get nearly all the major things we need made locally," Mr Bennett said.

For example, the injection moulded plastic components the company needs are all created in Whanganui.

For a big-city fix, Wellington is only two hours away, while Mr Bennett said Auckland is a 45 minute flight away should he need to travel for business meetings.

High speed internet means communication with customers across the globe is instant, with New Zealand's time zone in the company's favour.

"We can send answers to questions from customers and distributors, and it will be with them when they wake up in the morning."

"It is very convenient, and gives them the impression we are not far away.”

A reliable local freight service is also vital.

"We put helmets on a truck, mostly on a Thursday night and they are delivered to Auckland Airport on Friday morning."

Mr Bennett said international customers are impressed by the service.

From Whanganui to Ecuador - the Alausi Fire Brigade wearing helmets from Pacific Helmets Photo credit: Supplied

"We can send out helmets on a Thursday, and they would be delivered in London on the Tuesday morning."

David Bennett said the slower pace of life in Whanganui means staffing issues are less of an issue.

"There is a good range of staff and we don't seem to have the same problems getting factory staff that some places elsewhere would have."

He said the ease of living means there's no time wasted on congested motorways.

"People can get to work in five or 10 minutes at the most. Myself and others go home for lunch."

With Whanganui boasting high quality public and private schools, and more affordable house prices, many young families are choosing to settle there.

CEO of regional economic development agency, Whanganui and Partners, Mark Ward said it was an exciting time for the city.

“We are fast becoming a centre for advanced manufacturing and logistics supported by customised training,” he said.

"The opportunity to lease or buy land and buildings is still wide open, and new homes are being built to accommodate an influx of new residents and students from across NZ and overseas," Mr Ward said.

Whanganui and Partners
Whanganui is becoming a popular place to live and work. Photo credit: Whanganui and Partners

David Bennett agrees that more and more businesses are making the move to Whanganui.

"It's a mind-set people have got to get used to. The fact that the internet and general communications and transportation allows you to be based almost anywhere."

"If you have the people or products you need for your business, then Whanganui is an ideal place for you to be."

Meanwhile Pacific Helmets is continuing to grow, a change of premises could be on the cards to accommodate rising global orders.

Pacific Helmets' CEO David Bennett congratulates staff member Glen Spink on reaching 30 years of service for the company. Photo credit: Supplied

David Bennett is adamant despite being able to base the company anywhere in the world, he'll be staying put in Whanganui.

"Absolutely, Whanganui is the place to be."

This article has been created for Whanganui and Partners.