A Mid Canterbury wool merchant stands behind a petition launched to stop synthetic carpet tiles being installed in hundreds of rural schools in New Zealand.
The Ministry of Education has signed a contract worth between $7 million and $8m with US firm Milliken to import the carpet tiles as part of its refurbishment programme for rural schools.
Mainland Wool director Chris Bell said it "beggars belief" that the Government would put all-imported synthetic carpet from the US into schools.
"They came out and supported the wool industry and now they've turned their backs on us."
Bell said he supported a petition launched by Geraldine sheep, beef and dairy farmer Angela Blair, but feared it would fall on deaf ears.
South Canterbury farmer Blair was upset enough to step out of her comfort zone to raise awareness with a petition on change.org.
There was a big move to get rid of microplastics and remove plastic bags from supermarkets and a focus on carbon credits - and now they were importing a plastic product from America, she said.
Blair's petition has gathered more than 6000 signatures in under two weeks.
She said her petition was an act of frustration, but now she wanted to know why a very similar petition launched in 2020 was "blatantly ignored".
A petition by Amy Blaikie in 2020 called on the Government to use New Zealand wool products for carpeting and insulation in public-funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes.
Blaikie's petition attracted more than 15,000 signatures and was presented to the House of Representatives in August 2020. It was referred to the appropriate minister in February 2021,
Blair wanted to know why there had not been a response.
Even if it was too late to change the latest decision on school carpets there was still plenty of opportunity to support farmers and the local wool industry.
Apart from being a local natural fibre with good insulation properties, wool was a natural fire retardant, unlike synthetic nylon which melts and was "horrendous" in a fire, said Blair.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has been approached for comment.
Ministry of Education head of property Sam Fowler previously told media that Milliken's tender provided the best overall value.
He said Milliken outperformed wool carpet tile providers in performance specifications, the supplier’s approach in working with the ministry, and cost.
“In primary schools, carpets endure heavy use, wear, and dirt, so it's important for the product to last a long time and be cost-effective in the long run. The selected carpet tiles exceed the Ministry's warranty requirements and therefore won't need to be replaced frequently. The selected product is also materially less expensive than other options."
The tiles fulfilled the ministry's recycling and carbon footprint goals, he said.
By Sharon Davis