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Kiwi Kitsets Raise NZ Radiata Profile In India

Auckland, December 10, 2001 -- Fletcher Challenge Forests’ innovative pine kit set houses may soon be part of India’s disaster relief efforts following the successful construction of two demonstration units in a project co-ordinated by Trade New Zealand in partnership with the Indian relief agency FICCI/CARE.

Peter Price, Market Development Manager for Fletcher Challenge Forests, says the company built the emergency houses in India last month to show relief agencies the option of using New Zealand pine to build ultra low cost, safe and versatile buildings. Fletcher Challenge Forests also wanted to assist with the relief effort following the devastating earthquake in Bhuj, Gujarat on January 26.

The two units built in India are now being occupied and evaluated by FICCI/CARE and other relief agencies. If found to be okay for Indian conditions and culturally suitable in the eyes of the villagers there is potential for hundreds of units to be sold to aid agencies, Mr Price says.

New Zealand exports about $50 million worth of pine to India annually, mostly for use in packaging and concrete formwork, and nearly all of it into the area worst affected by the earthquake that made tens of thousands of people homeless, Mr Price said.

While the Indian relief effort has been impressive, many people are still living in tents and other temporary accommodation with new permanent brick and concrete housing only now being built in the hundreds of villages and towns hit by the quake.

The Fletcher Challenge Forests emergency house, costing significantly less than other housing, could provide immediate shelter for the homeless and also be used as health clinics, school rooms or offices for the relief agencies, Mr Price says.

The kit set units are earthquake resistant, cyclone and termite proof and have been designed to be built quickly by unskilled people without experience working with timber and can be a permanent or re-locatable structure.

New Zealand Trade Commissioner to India Peter Healy joined the five villagers who formed a construction crew to build the first unit in Kotda, 10 km from the epicentre of the January earthquake, equipped with only a water level, hammer, tape measure, spanner and saw.

Mr Healy says the New Zealand container arrived on the site at 10am, by 11:30am it was unloaded and by 1pm the walls of the dwelling were up. By 6:30pm, just as the sun began the set, the roof was on and the house was ready for occupation.

“Working with the villagers out in the bone dry Gujarat desert was an extraordinary experience. We were in the centre of such devastation and both Peter Price and I felt privileged to be making at least a small contribution. The five villagers who had built it were
amazed at what they had achieved and were keen to start the second unit. They had no English and we had some hilarious moments communicating the building process by sign language,” he says.

“Neither Peter Price or I had built a house before, and we had only seen this unit in plan form. The village mayor was amazed to see a Trade Commissioner swinging a hammer, but we told him if that is what it takes to sell pine in India, that’s what New Zealand Trade Commissioners do.”

A second slightly larger unit has now been built in the town of Rapar by the same group of villagers who assisted with the first house – but this time on their own.

“They decided to build the unit over night and apart from calling me a couple of times to check key procedures managed without further assistance,” Mr Healy says. “The over night construction of the unit astounded the village and certainly demonstrated how quick and easy the Fletcher units are to build.”

He says the market for low cost emergency housing in South Asia runs into tens of thousands of units annually. In the past two years in just the Indian provinces of Gujarat and Orissa more than one million people have been made homeless by two devastating cyclones and one earthquake.

Man-made disasters in South Asia may also lead to demand for emergency housing units in the region, Mr Healy says.


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