Breath­ing life into old fac­tory

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

Once aban­doned, the for­mer Dun­lop tyre fac­tory in Up­per Hutt has been re­vi­talised thanks to the vi­sion of Mal­colm Gil­lies.

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Prop­erty de­vel­oper Mal­colm Gil­lies has lit­tle time for sen­ti­ment. In the late 1970s, Gil­lies was an ap­pren­tice fit­ter at Up­per Hutt’s Dun­lop tyre fac­tory. Today he owns the South Pa­cific In­dus­trial Park, where the tyre fac­tory once sup­ported an econ­omy pro­tected from im­ports.

But with the suc­cess and continuing ex­pan­sion of the in­dus­trial park, the 59-year-old al­lows him­self some emo­tional slack.

‘‘We’ve breathed new life into it [the in­dus­trial site] and there’s an im­mense sense of sat­is­fac­tion to see the old girl up and run­ning.

‘‘It’s ex­cit­ing to see how it’s come to­gether, re­ally. It could have been a [white] ele­phant, couldn’t it, but it’s ac­tu­ally turned out very, very vi­brant and pos­i­tive.’’

Today, af­ter al­most a decade of his man­age­ment, the South Pa­cific In­dus­trial Park is a fully leased com­mer­cial and man­u­fac­tur­ing hub, ac­com­mo­dat­ing more than 35 busi­nesses and pro­vid­ing al­most 400 jobs, the num­ber of rub­ber work­ers on site in Dun­lop’s heyday.

‘‘Imag­ine if it had just been left to rack and ruin with just car wreck­ers and bat­tery fac­to­ries and crap in there.’’

Sev­eral of the ten­ants are ex­pand­ing, a Brew­town craft beer pro­duc­tion and des­ti­na­tion hub is in the plan­ning, and con­struc­tion of ‘‘Maid­stone Quar­ter’’, a 90-lot res­i­den­tial and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment on ad­ja­cent land at the park’s frontage, will be­gin early next year.

It all rep­re­sents a stun­ning against-the-odds re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion for the 18-hectare hill­side prop­erty which, af­ter its clo­sure by Dun­lop in 2006, was aban­doned for two years. The shut­down of the 24-hour, blue-col­lar fac­tory brought the sud­den loss of many well-paid lo­cal jobs.

‘‘The clo­sure hit Up­per Hutt hard. All those years ago it was all bus­tle and hus­tle there and a real pos­i­tive with what has hap­pened since is that again there are jobs at South Pa­cific which are held by Up­per Hutt peo­ple,’’ city coun­cil eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment man­ager Phil Gor­man said.

‘‘It must have been a tremen­dous punt [to pur­chase the site]. Mal­colm was de­lib­er­ate about mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able and af­ford­able. Look at Mike Neilson at Pan­head, he was given a start and now he’s made it and for Up­per Hutt all those jobs are there, again.’’

Gil­lies has re­ceived min­i­mal fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from a coun­cil with a range of poli­cies to at­tract new busi­ness, he said.

‘‘His ma­jor work here was ahead of the eco­nomic stim­u­lus pol­icy be­ing in­tro­duced. Coun­cil has pro­vided some as­sis­tance through the pol­icy to earth­quake strengthen the fa­cil­ity Pan­head has re­cently ex­panded into.

‘‘The pol­icy has also as­sisted the own­ers of two new craft brew­eries re­cently es­tab­lished in the com­plex.’’

It was in 2008, al­ready well es­tab­lished with his real es­tate busi­ness and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment com­pany Up­per Hutt De­vel­op­ments, Gil­lies punted and by ten­der bought the prop­erty just 1 kilo­me­tre from the city cen­tre. ‘‘The vi­sion when we bought it was to ob­vi­ously ren­o­vate it and to try and en­cour­age ten­ants to come from out­side the area,’’ Gil­lies said. ‘‘I think a lot of peo­ple thought it wasn’t pos­si­ble but I al­ways be­lieved it was.’’

Mal­colm Gil­lies started an ap­pren­tice­ship at the Dun­lop fac­tory in 1974. He bought the site in 2008 and has since turned it into the South Pa­cific In­dus­trial Park.

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