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