Scheme heads off imported steel work

By Marta Steeman, The Press

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New Zealand steel workshops are trying to head off any large scale importation of structural steel into Christchurch and Auckland with a new certification scheme.

Lobby group Steel Construction New Zealand and the Heavy Engineering Research Association have launched a new Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) scheme.

Steel Construction NZ manager Alastair Fussell said the scheme was voluntary and designed to give developers, builders and the construction industry confidence in the process around the production of structural steel in New Zealand.

It would be “a mark of quality” in which a company’s people, training and processes were independently audited by external parties.

Eight prefabrication steel companies received the certification late last week when the scheme was launched with the support of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Two of those – Chapman Engineering and John Jones Steel – are two of the city’s biggest structural steel producers.
Fussell said the current compliance process for structural steelwork relied on self-inspection.

“The recent boom in construction activity centred on Christchurch and Auckland has seen an increase in the amount of imported prefabricated steelwork entering New Zealand.”

He said there had been cases where paperwork was missing and the steelwork did not meet the required specification leading to expensive project delays.

About 80 per cent of steelwork fabrication was done by the top 10 companies which included Chapman Engineering, John Jones Steel and Pegasus Engineering.

The country had the capacity to produce about 110,000 tonnes of prefabricated steel a year but was probably producing about 60,000 tonnes at present and had plenty of spare capacity.

Construction company Calder Stewart had completed a large new steel fabrication plant in Milton in Southland, boosting the capacity of the South Island.

Chapman Engineering owner Chris Chapman said it had not been expensive for the company to secure certification because it already had most of the systems in place. “We had to do a bit more paperwork. Because of the size of us and the work we do we were already nearly there.”

John Jones Steel also achieved the certification. “It says Chapman and John Jones have a standard and they can trace all their work,” Chapman said.

It was streamlining the company’s operations and making it more efficient. Long term it would be a saving, Chapman said.

Before the earthquakes there had been very few steel structured buildings in Christchurch. “Christchurch and Canterbury was the cheapest place to produce concrete,” he said.

But building owners were shifting to steel which was lighter and it was “the one thing that stayed up well in the earthquakes.”

He said the certification system ensured fabricators met a minimum standard and engineers could have confidence that the companies were not “cowboys”.

Local steel industry tackles imports head on

New Zealand’s structural steel fabricators aim to set themselves apart from imported prefabricated steelwork with the launch today of a new independent, quality assurance scheme.

The Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) scheme ensures participating fabricators not only manufacture product to the specified quality standard, but that they have appropriate personnel and quality management systems in place representing international best-practice.

“Today’s launch of the Steel Fabricator Certification scheme is an important milestone for our industry,” says Steel Construction New Zealand (SCNZ) Manager Alistair Fussell.

“As with other construction materials, the current compliance regime for structural steelwork relies, for the most part, on self-inspection and self-certification.

“This new Steel Fabricator Certification scheme raises the bar by providing independent, expert certification of New Zealand fabrication companies.”

Mr Fussell says the SFC scheme creates an important point of difference for locally fabricated steel compared with imported prefabricated steelwork.

“The recent boom in construction activity, centred on Christchurch and Auckland, has seen an increase in the amount of imported prefabricated steelwork entering New Zealand. However, there have been cases where paperwork has been missing or the steelwork does not meet the required specification, leading to costly project delays.

“The SFC scheme, on the other hand, provides procurers and specifiers, such as engineers, architects and contractors, with certainty of product quality and significantly reduced compliance risk.”

The SFC scheme was launched today in Hamilton by SCNZ and the Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA), together with Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment Chief Executive David Smol.

The initial group of steel fabricators certified under the SFC scheme are:

  • Chapman Engineering, Christchurch
  • D&H Steel Construction, Auckland
  • Eastbridge, Napier
  • Jensen Steel Fabricators, Mt Maunganui
  • John Jones Steel, Christchurch
  • MJH Engineering, Lower Hutt
  • Red Steel, Napier
  • Whakatiki Engineering, Upper Hutt

Developed jointly by SCNZ and HERA, the SFC scheme is based on the European system which is part of the CE-marking regulatory environment and represents international best-practice.

About Steel Construction New Zealand
Steel Construction New Zealand Inc. (SCNZ) aims to advance the interests of New Zealand’s diverse steel construction industry by promoting the benefits of steel solutions in building and infrastructure projects. Members include manufacturers of structural steel and steel products, distributors, fabricators, designers, detailers, galvanisers, and paint and building supply companies. SCNZ provides its members with technical advice on the latest in steel design trends and standards, networking opportunities and a representative voice with key industry and government decision-makers. For more information please visit

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