Carpet manufacturer Bremworth has launched an initiative designed to make it easier for schools to carpet classrooms in New Zealand wool.
The Bremworth Wool in Education Initiative follows reports that schools are unhappy with the Ministry of Education’s Nga iti Kahurangi proposal to install almost $8 million worth of nylon carpet in up to 760 small or rural schools around the country.
Rural communities have been turning to community fundraising to pay for woollen carpet, rather than accepting the taxpayer-funded synthetic option.
Under the new programme, schools that are due to replace their existing flooring can apply to carpet manufacturer Bremworth for a product subsidy equivalent to at least 30% of their flooring needs.
For a school requiring 400 square metres of carpet, this would equate to savings of more than $10,000.
Principal of Rotherham School in North Canterbury Cheryl Barbara said the education ministry’s offer to provide synthetic carpet is inconsistent with the sustainability doctrine the government wants taught to students and is insulting to the rural sector.
“We are told to teach the kids about sustainability, yet the government isn’t actually practising what they preach.
“It’s beyond belief that they are stipulating imported synthetic carpets in rural schools when we are a wool-producing nation, particularly as larger urban schools have the option to install carpets of their choice.
“As a principal of a rural school, I can tell you that it goes against our rural values and is highly offensive to our wider farming community, which has been struggling over the past few years,” Barbara said.
Rotherham is one of 10 pilot schools that were due to be fast-tracked through a renovation programme, that includes a lighting and acoustic upgrades as well as carpeting.
“The ministry has told other rural principals if they refuse the synthetic tiles, they cannot access this proportion of the funding to use for wool carpet,” Barbara said.
“Rural schools are about supporting their local community. I don’t think there would be any rural school in NZ that would want to be using plastic carpet, to be honest.
“It is heartwarming to see a local company like Bremworth offering to do what they can to help get wool back into schools,” she said.
Rotherham is looking to fund the wool carpet from some of the fundraising done throughout the year, including the North Canterbury hunting competition, selling corn and the Amuri rogaine event.
Bremworth chief executive Greg Smith said the decision to use petrochemical-based carpet fibre flies in the face of the government’s commitment to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.
He said it’s ironic that Bremworth has won export contracts in Australia that specified wool carpet in schools and yet historically there has been less support for the product in the NZ education sector.
“NZ wool carpet has a history of performing for decades in Australasian schools prior to the introduction of imported synthetic alternatives.
“Unlike most other commercial settings, what we know about schools is that the students tend to spend a lot of time sitting on the floor.
“We believe in creating the optimal environment for learning and their comfort is a significant part of this.”
Bremworth is doing what it can to help small Kiwi schools like Rotherham access NZ wool, a high-performing renewable and biodegradable fibre.
“This then provides a more natural, healthy environment for our children to thrive.”
The company is also calling on the government to provide a cash alternative to the synthetic carpet to further help schools access wool without needing to fundraise.
“What is needed now is for the ministry to amend their current offer to allow schools to take the cash equivalent of the plastic tiles, which they can then put towards wool carpet,” Smith said.
New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) market development manager Hadleigh Smith said many of its growers are disillusioned by the ministry’s decision and frustrated by the lacklustre explanations after the programme was publicised.
“It’s no secret that wool growers are struggling and this decision hit close to home.
“They don’t want their kids sitting on plastic when they could just as easily be sitting on fibre grown in their own backyard.
“NZM is built on creating deep relationships between brands and the growers who supply them and we’re thrilled to see that play out with Bremworth backing its growers and coming up with a solution.”
Schools wanting to apply for a product subsidy can contact the company.