New Zealand could revive its flax industry on the back of new research showing it has potential as an anti-fungal packaging material. Research by Professor Gerald Smith of Victoria University, has found that harakeke is resistant to fungal growth, suggesting it could prove valuable for food packaging. Smith, a chemist, was looking for ways to stabilise flax fibres in old Maori cloaks, which become brittle with exposure to light. “As well as finding a way of halting this deterioration, we also found that the enhanced resistance some harakeke have to fungal growth means it could ultimately find new uses in conservation and textiles, as well as in packaging that would prevent food from spoiling,” he said. Long-term, says Smith, the research holds promise for reviving New Zealand’s flax industry, which was a significant earner until the advent of synthetic fibres that use non-renewable material resources.