By Hayley Gastmeier
Cheap Chinese imports has forced a longstanding Masterton factory to close down.
In September, Sliderite owner Dave Revell bit the bullet and shut his Ngaumutawa Rd business.
He said he was left with little choice.
“Basically most of the things we used to make, a lot of zips and bits and pieces for clothing, well of course most of that comes in already made up from China these days,” Mr Revell said.
“In the early days of course everybody wanted quality, but in the end price rules.
“And like a lot of manufacturing in New Zealand, in the end you just can’t compete.”
He bought the factory 26 years ago, after working there since the 1970s.
About 12 years back Mr Revell employed about 40 staff.
But it was just himself and his three remaining employees affected when the factory doors closed for the final time.
The company started out as Rondo, which was managed by General Plastics, a Petone-based Company which moved to Wairarapa in 1964.
Mr Revell said the New Zealand Government at the time was encouraging manufactures to move out of the Hutt to rural areas.
The Government paid for the move, writing the loan off if the factory stayed for X number of years.
From Rondo, the company became Scovill, and then Mr Revell changed the name to Sliderite when he purchased it in 1990.
Mr Revell joined the factory in 1976, when it was called Rondo.
“By that stage, we were not only making zips, but making hanger tapes for skirts, and gradually working into industrial webbings.”
Webbing is a strong fabric used on items like backpacks, dog lead and collars, and cycle helmet straps.
Under Mr Revell, Sliderite had some big-name contracts, including making webbing for Macpac, a company specialising in outdoor adventure equipment, and supplying cotton tape to Lane Walker Rudkin for rugby jerseys.
Sliderite also made for Sunbeam’s electric blankets, the tie tapes which secured them to the mattress.
“I think the biggest order we got out of there one season was close to four million metres.
“Well that obviously all went offshore as well… close to when Macpac disappeared off shore, probably about 12 years ago.”
Mr Revell said the volumes of orders had been steadily declining for years.
“Back in our hey-day, in the mid-1980s, we would make 100,000 jean zips a month.
“Regular as clockwork. Now nobody is making jeans in New Zealand, except for some people who make shearers jeans but a limited amount of course.”
He said another instance which “really hurt” the company was when Whitehead Productions, in Villa St, closed down about four years ago after losing a contract with the Army.
“We use to supply them, and a variety of other people, making zips, cords and webbings.
“But when we signed free trade agreements with China and everybody else, most of the contracts were all lost.”
With less business coming in, Mr Revell said the Ngaumutawa Rd site was “becoming more and more expensive to run”.
“We didn’t want to close it down owing people money, so we just decided along the way it was time to call it a day.”