A new project aiming to breathe some life into the country's struggling wool sector has received almost $2 million in Government support.
Bremworth is working to develop more sustainable all-wool carpets and rugs in a bid to provide an alternative to synthetic options. The company hopes by doing so it will not only create products that are healthier for the planet but also help maintain the country's wool producing capacity and preserve jobs in the industry.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will contribute $1.9 million to the three-year project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.
"The rise of synthetic carpets has overtaken wool dramatically in the last few decades, which has severely affected the wool industry," says O'Connor.
Bremworth chief executive Paul Alston says the funding will go towards the project's total costs of $4.9 million and support the research and development of natural and green chemistry-based alternatives to the few remaining synthetic components of woollen carpets.
Alston hopes the move will see more Kiwis return to using woollen carpets in their houses instead of synthetics.
"People don’t realise how much plastic is going into their homes...or that synthetic carpet is made from plastic. Like many things, used carpet often ends up in landfill and a synthetic carpet put into landfill today will still be there many, many years later," he says.
A Government group tasked with looking at what could be done to reinvigorate the industry released its findings last year, with O'Connor describing the situation at the time as "grim".
The group made a number of recommendations to help the wool sector grow but the situation is not expected to improve overnight.
On Monday O'Connor said despite the difficulties plaguing the industry, growing awareness around the benefits of sustainable products such as wool meant there was plenty of opportunity for the industry.
"More than ever consumers are considering the entire life-cycle of products. We believe this programme will spur demand for New Zealand strong wool and enhance our manufacturing competitiveness through strong environmental credentials that challenge industry norms," he said.
"If we get this right, then that’s a compelling yarn we can sell to our markets abroad."