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    IFAI membership helps OFPANZ expand

    Industry News | March 1, 2009 | By:

    New Zealand’s OFPANZ is working to expand industry opportunities.

    In April 1988, the inaugural meeting of the Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand (OFPANZ) was held, presided over by the Manufacturers Association of New Zealand, now Business NZ. We still have many of those original members. Two of them, at least, are well known to members of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and the global industry through their success in the IFAI Awards of Excellence program: Baytex Mfg. Co. Ltd., Tauranga, and Canvasland Holdings Ltd., Levin, New Zealand.

    In 1996, I was elected the first woman president of OFPANZ. In 1997, the membership voted to break away from Business NZ’s control and administer its own affairs, and I became the OFPANZ national secretary.

    In 2008, in another landmark decision, more than 82 percent of the OFPANZ members voted to join IFAI. I believe that this will help to secure our future by giving our small organization the opportunity to expand membership and develop closer ties with associated industries in New Zealand, and to develop broader horizons. Perhaps in the coming years there will be conventions and trade shows in New Zealand encompassing tent and marquee rental, fabric graphics, safety and protective gear and other markets, just as IFAI does now in other locations.

    Who is OFPANZ?

    The structure of OFPANZ has changed over the years; we currently have 51 fabricator members and 21 supplier member companies. More than 90 percent of businesses in New Zealand employ fewer than 10 people; in our industry, only a few fabricators have more than 25 people on their staff—many have fewer than five employees. However, in combination they carry a lot of weight with the government, particularly through our continued association with Business NZ.

    Many of our suppliers are the New Zealand distributors for products that will be familiar to IFAI members and others. In recent years, events such as the America’s Cup and the high profile of the film industry in New Zealand have required our outdoor products, and opportunities continue today. Some predicted growth areas:

    Weather and fire protection. Many have turned to alfresco lifestyles. The use of roll-away blinds for wind and shade protection adds to the existing shade and waterproof canopies market. Because of increased legislation by local authorities, this will also increase the demand for fire-retardant fabrics.

    D.I.Y. Trends in New Zealand industry are usually driven by the new fabrics and fittings that arrive on the scene, as well as customer demands. The typical Kiwi psyche is traditionally D.I.Y. (do it yourself), which leads to innovative thinking and entrepreneurial ideas

    Four seasons in one day. The advent of wider, lighter and better life-expectancy textiles and methods of manufacturing are the future of the industry in New Zealand. What will not change is how often we have four seasons in one day—all requiring some form of protection, and with more legislation requiring educational institutions and local governmental bodies to provide shade, there should continue to be strong growth in the shade market. What the world gets from New Zealand is a true testing ground with one of the highest UV rates in the world; products that perform “down under” will handle most other tough environments.

    The value of niche markets

    Niche markets are very important in New Zealand, arising from members meeting a need and often exporting that product as well. There are many examples of this “thinking outside the square.” For example

    Charman Motor Trimmers & Upholsterers Ltd. in Napier, New Zealand, manufactures and exports motor bike seat covers.

    John Herber Ltd. (doing business as The Canvas Technology Centre, in Kaiapoi) specializes in film and theater special effects fabrics, boasting film credits such as “The Frighteners,” “The Lord of the Rings” series, “King Kong” and many more. Another of this company’s specialties is cold climate equipment for both the Arctic and Antarctic.

    The innovative use of PVC, foam and mesh by Sweetmans Ltd., Huntley, New Zealand, led to the design and manufacturer of Hoofmat™, for treatment of lameness in dairy cows as they stand in a milking stanchion. Then came the Sweetmat™, for human use at the entrance to disease-sensitive premises. These products and others are now exported to more than 30 countries.

    A product familiar to all of us is the drogue, or sea anchor, which has been featured on the cover of the IFAI membership package. This sea anchor is 43 meters across and is deployed under the water like a parachute to hold tuna fishing boats steady. It is manufactured by W.A. Coppins Ltd., of Motueka, a small town on the South Island. W.A. Coppins has been in business for more than 100 years.

    Qualifications and training

    The NZ Motor Industry Training Organisation Inc. (MITO) is the key interface between the automotive and industrial textile fabrication industries in New Zealand and the tertiary education sector. MITO is committed to lifting the quality and performance of industry training to support a highly skilled workforce, extending and expanding career pathways and providing innovative and effective skills leadership.

    OFPANZ has been working in close association with MITO over the past ten years to further develop apprenticeship and business training opportunities for our sector. OFPANZ is also involved at a strategic level, holding a position on the MITO board of directors.

    There are clear benefits to being involved in structured, national, work-based training:

    • The industry becomes more attractive to new entrants with a clear career structure and portability of qualifications.
    • The quality of entrants to the industry improves.
    • Industry training promotes best practices and raises competence levels.
    • The skills of existing workers can be recognised and endorsed by assessment of prior learning and current competency processes.
    • Structured training is closely allied with quality improvement processes and enhanced productivity.
    • National qualifications and structured training give the industry credibility in international markets.
    • Training pathways include national qualification in supervisory and business management.

    MITO’s training support services include quarterly visits by a dedicated customer services manager, personalized training plans, unlimited assessments, all training materials (available by correspondence), maintenance of academic records and issue of national certificates, as well as the opportunity to attend off-job training at a one-week industry training course in coordination with OFPANZ.

    Work-based training in New Zealand is subsidized by the government. Industry is also required to make a contribution. There are a number of youth-based industry training initiatives developed to give high school students exposure to industry experience. MITO has developed the school program StartUp®, which links school students and industry employers and enables students to complete a national qualification at level one—the first step for their apprenticeship. MITO has also developed marketing collateral for schools, including 10-minute television segments on a range of industry sectors, including industrial textile fabrication.

    Training options in the National Certificate in Industrial Textile Fabrication (levels 3 and 4) include strands in canvas fabrication, sail making, and vehicle trimming and upholstery.

    OFPANZ holds an annual national awards competition open to all apprentices registered with MITO, divided into two sections to reflect the training levels. The entries are displayed and the Apprentice of the Year is honored at the OFPANZ Annual Conference. MITO takes every opportunity to feature these high achievers in their publications.

    Achievement and opportunity

    We, too, have our awards, announced and presented at our annual conference’s gala dinner. Currently we have 12 categories and a two-tiered judging system. As mentioned, some of these winners have gone on to achieve success in the IFAI awardstoo. OFPANZ has moved to a biennial trade show that works well; however, it does present different challenges for the alternating conferences to continue to add value for money and make them a “must attend” event.

    Ours is one of the most underrated but exciting industries, with every day full of different challenges. As of midJanuary, global economic woes hadn’t yet affected many manufacturers here. In the future, who can tell? An enormous amount of networking takes place at our annual conferences, and many businesses contract work out to each other, making the most of our individual skills. Businesses have also worked in combination to deliver on large contracts.

    OFPANZ has come a long way since 1988, and now, through joining with IFAI, there will be great value in working together, marrying skills and knowledge, and perhaps in training too. It will be interesting for all of us to look back to where we are today, even in 2015, and see what further impact technology, and our own inventiveness, have had on us all.

    Jacqueline MacFarlane is the national secretary of OFPANZ. More information on MITO can be found at For information on OFPANZ, visit

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