New case study shows value of Waikato aluminium industry

COVID-19 has reaffirmed the value of local manufacturing and highlighted how New Zealand prioritises the health and safety of its people.

It has also given us the opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that addresses climate change and low-value jobs.

Flying under the radar are metals industries in our regions that are already delivering what we need – advanced technology businesses providing high-value jobs in our regions and value-add products for the domestic and export markets.

The Waikato region’s aluminium industry is a case in point. A hub for the production of high-quality aluminium products, especially extruded products, the region’s industry provides hundreds of high-value jobs and delivers the input material for a wide range of downstream manufacturers.

A new case study on the  Waikato Aluminium Industry commissioned bv the Aluminium Extruders of New Zealand (ALENZ), quantifies how Waikato’s primary aluminium manufacturers and extruders are contributing to New Zealand’s wellbeing – through economic activity, jobs, environmental stewardship and health and safety using the key metrics of Treasury’s Living Standards Framework and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Estimated to have an annual turnover of approximately $1 billion as of 2019, the Waikato region aluminium industry represents some of the world’s most sophisticated aluminium extrusion and processing businesses in the world.

The Waikato has three large extruders – Independent Extrusion (Inex), Altus, and Ullrich Aluminium, crucial suppliers to almost all residential and commercial buildings in New Zealand, producing some 25,000 tonnes of the world’s lowest carbon extruded aluminium annually used in high-quality windows, doors, and other applications.

As an industry, over 99% of all scrap is recycled, and even dies are recycled at the end of their useful life. This allows the industry to minimise waste by extracting value from spent product.

Overall, very little fossil energy is used for extrusion, with most energy for heating coming from electricity resulting in a very low impact on air quality and carbon emissions. Combined with the use of modern electric heating technology and New Zealand’s clean grid mix, the finished product has an extremely low carbon footprint compared with international product.

These firms are critical to the Waikato region economy, employing more than 350 people directly. Many more jobs are provided within the region in other finished products, fabrication, die manufacturing along with those created in downstream distribution and manufacturing industries. As major employers they also deliver benefits down the supply chain.

Despite the impacts of COVID-19, these are stable well-paid jobs offering around 40 hours’ training every year for every worker, putting skills and safety as top priority.

This is important information and demonstrates why local manufacturing matters. We know little about the provenance of imported extruded material. Material sourced from places that do not have the same level of regulations, policies and commitment to sustainability as we do in New Zealand means that material is not contributing nearly as much to the wellbeing of people, especially those in New Zealand.

View/download ALENZ Waikato Aluminium Case Study FINAL 20200622