Pipe plant to open in Christchurch

The demand for state-of-the-art, super-resilient infrastructure to underpin the rebuild of Christchurch will receive a major boost with the commissioning of a multi-million dollar plastic pipe manufacturing plant in Bromley on October 24.
Christchurch company Frank PKS New Zealand is in the final stages of preparing the $3 million-plus production line, which will equip it to more than double production of its specialised high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes, as well as produce a significantly expanded array of pipe sizes, up to 4 metres diameter.
Its general manager, Bryan Wilson, says that will position it to supply critical materials for the Christchurch rebuild, as well as service growing demand from local government and heavy industry around New Zealand.
It is a landmark achievement for the business - majority owned by local shareholders and drawing on world-leading technology shared with a German partner - which like many in Christchurch was left with ruined premises and an uncertain future after the February, 2011 earthquake.
Mr Wilson says the project is a major vote of faith in the future of Christchurch, and particularly the city’s east. He said there was never any question about its determination to resume production as quickly as possible, and within 60 days it had moved to a new factory a short distance across the Bromley industrial area, re-installing its existing production line and pushing ahead with planning for the new line.
In recent months, the new plant had been shipped to New Zealand after initial construction in Germany, with a team of technicians also travelling here to assist the Christchurch company’s staff in installation and the complex commissioning project.
Mr Wilson said that while smaller-diameter plastic pipe was commonplace in New Zealand industry, Frank PKS’ specialisation in large-diameter products (from 0.5 to 4m) marked it out and provided a valuable alternative to traditional concrete or cast-iron for uses such as sewage mains, wastewater treatment plants, ocean outfalls and heavy industrial applications.
He acknowledged that HDPE pipes were a relatively unknown quantity to some engineers and infrastructure managers in New Zealand, but were widely used across America, Europe and Asia. Their capacity to cope with the most punishing environments and forces, including strong earthquakes, meant they were widely used in seismically active countries such as Chile, Japan and Italy; they were also increasingly being sought out for Christchurch’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure rebuild. In areas where they were already in place before the earthquakes they had come through unscathed.
The manufacturing technology used by Frank PKS at its Bromley plant was unique in the southern hemisphere, and the company had invested heavily in importing expertise and supporting standards specifications, to help the wider industry understand, scrutinise and test the suitability of the processes and products, Mr Wilson said.
The new plant will be officially commissioned at a ceremony at Frank PKS in Francella Street, Bromley on Wednesday, October 24.