Council criticised for not choosing woollen carpet

What about wool?...Gore district sheep farmers are disappointed the council chose acrylic tiles instead of woollen carpet in the recent makeover of the town’s civic administra tion building. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

The Gore District Council has saved about $20,000 but sheep farmers are not impressed.

In the recently refurbished civic administration building, acrylic tiles have been laid instead of woollen carpet.

Retired sheep farmer Graeme Keown said the council’s decision was disrespectful to farmers who paid a proportion of the district’s rates.

“We are getting nothing for our wool and they’re not helping in any way whatsoever,” Mr Keown said.

“They’ve actually thumbed their nose at the farmers.”

Ferndale farmer Henry McFadzien said that after World War 2, when the number of sheep rose dramatically, farmers’ income prospered which had a flow-on effect in Gore.

“Gore in the ’60s could boast of having the largest retail turnover of any New Zealand town,” Mr McFadzien said.

In 1991, a statue of a Romney ram was unveiled in the town’s Main St to commemorate the contribution the products of meat and wool had made to the district.

Mr Keown said the Romney statue once represented the importance of wool to the town.

“They may as well take that down – it means nothing.”

Woollen carpet was far more fire resistant than acrylic, which was “awful stuff if you have a fire,” he said.

“Bullshit” is how Black Hills sheep and beef farmer Fred Sutherland described the decision.

“We’re a district of farmers as well as townspeople.

“There are still a lot of sheep farmers around this area…[the council] can’t even be seen to be using a local product.”

There was much public awareness about the climate emergency the world was facing.

“Why are they using nylons?”

Mandeville farmer Barry Roughan said it made no sense for the council to use an artificially made fibre.

“They are using a product that is going to take 200 years to break down and we’ve got a product that biodegrades.”

Farmers were required to farm in an environmentally sound way, they said.

“They’re telling us to change but they are not prepared to change themselves,” Mr Roughan said.

“We’re spending thousands all the time trying to make the environment better,” Mr Sutherland said.

“Synthetic carpet is environmentally bad,” Mr Keown said.

Mr Keown hoped woollen carpet would be the floor covering of choice when renovations were completed on the James Cumming Wing.

Former Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young said the organisation was very disappointed with the council’s decision.

“I did send a letter to the mayor … The mayor assures us they are going to look at wool for further work when they do the rest of their building,” Mr Young said.

Wool had been an important revenue-earner in the district.

“Gore, in particular, has largely been founded over the last 150 years on the back of the sheep.”

Council chief executive Steve Parry said the council relied on the judgement of professionals who helped with the refurbishment.

“While using wool would have been an ideal outcome, the reality is that in a high-traffic office environment, acrylic tiles are going to last much longer and be more sustainable in the event of areas having to be replaced,” Mr Parry said.

Tiles were easier to replace in the event areas wore out or were soiled.

“Minor alterations to the layout, moving a wall or joinery unit, can easily be accommodated.

“Whereas with broadloom, the whole carpet would need to be replaced or patched.”

About 1025 sqm of tiles were laid of the 1100 sqm ordered at a cost of $48.25 per sqm.

The total cost was $49,456.

Quotes for carpet started at about $65 per sqm.

“There are currently no carpet tiles available in wool, only broadloom (3.6m wide).

“Based on the amount laid, and had the council chosen wool, the total cost could have been $66,625.

“The supplier was uncertain as to about how the product would perform in a high-wear office situation.”

Acrylic tiles were guaranteed for 15 years, which was five years longer than standard woollen carpet.

Another option considered was Axminster carpet that had a warranty of 20 years.

The approximate supply cost ranged from $85 per sqm to $120 per sqm.

Wools of New Zealand chief executive John McWhirter said the farmer-owned company was in the process of developing a woollen tile.

“They will be available in the not too distant future.”