Celebrating our 80th birthday in 2007 we reflected on the establishment and growth of Winstone Wallboards Ltd through diversity and innovation.
Until the mid 1920's most of New Zealand’s plasterboard came from North America. Convinced that plaster wallboard of comparable quality could be made in New Zealand and, despite the difficulties inherent in the pioneering of such a local industry, a company called Builders Composite Materials Ltd did just that. Winstone Ltd, a separate company who had been gradually moving into the field of the manufacture of building materials, expressed interest in this venture and formed NZ Wallboards Ltd. This company became one of New Zealands major manufacturing enterprises producing plaster wallboard - then known as Gibraltar Board.
The demand for the product soon outstripped the capacity of the company’s modest factory and new facilities were developed on the Mt Eden site. By comparison with today’s production techniques, the methods employed in the earlier period of ‘Gibraltar Board’ manufacture seem very laborious, however they laid the foundations of an industry of national significance.
In its first year of production (1927) NZ Wallboards produced 1,000,000 square feet of wallboard - a major achievement considering the very manual methods employed, combined with heavy competition from abroad.
Only three years later the figure had increased to 5,000,000 square feet – which taxed the Auckland plant to its capacity. In 1931 a new plant was installed and mechanisation was introduced in place of the original hand methods.
By 1950, manufacturing included mechanical cutting off with electronic feeding to an automatic drier. The drying process has been reduced from 24 hours to only 90 minutes.
Up until 1931, the wallboard was basically a sawdust-plaster core, with open edges, marketed as Winstone Board. Later that year, open edges were replaced by selveged-edge board, pumice replaced sawdust, and the name of the product was changed to "Gibraltar Board", which was named after the steadfast Rock of Gibraltar.
Building conditions after World War II quickly made apparent the need for further production facilities. Production began in a new factory in Lower Hutt in 1946.
As a further means of maintaining high quality production, in 1958 a control laboratory was established and bulk plaster handling and automatic weighing equipment introduced. By 1960, the pressure of shipping space from Auckland to the South Island, coupled with the increasing absorption of the Auckland output on the Auckland market, made it apparent that the South Island required a plant of its own. The Christchurch plant went into operation in 1961.
By 1971 the Auckland plant was replaced with a new plant in Penrose, where it is still situated today. The company became Winstone Wallboards Ltd and Fletcher Challenge became a major shareholder in 1988. Approximately 10 years ago, Winstone Wallboards began promoting ‘GIB Living Solutions®’. The solutions approach proved very successful, because it was based on solving customer’s needs for whole systems. The added advantage was increased product demand/pull through.
Today Winstone Wallboards Ltd has factories in Auckland and Christchurch, distribution centres in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and is involved in the growing markets in China and Asia through its Cemac (Hong Kong) operation. The company is committed to quality research, and works closely with researchers at universities at New Zealand’s major industrial research and development centres coupled with its international and domestic partners, to continually improve products, systems, and solutions.
Winstone Wallboards’ distribution and warehouse facility, opened early 2006, is located at “The Gate” Industrial Park in Auckland and covers nearly 16,000m2.
Over the last 80 years, the company has grown from modest beginnings to now be New Zealand’s largest manufacturer and supplier of gypsum plasterboard, drywall systems, and associated products and services.