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Published: 2002-06-06 00:00:00

A project investigating potential industries for New Zealand’s native flax is looking for support from Environment Waikato.

Manager for the Paa Harakeke project Rangi Te Kanawa told this week’s Environment Committee meeting that the potential for a revival of the flax industry into fashion fabric was being examined by a trust, Nga Hua o te Harakeke with assistance from Industrial Research Ltd. The trust had applied for funding for research projects investigating the variety of flax and their properties, and to complete “fibre to fabric” trials.

Rangi Te Kanawa is also in private practice as a textile conservator and comes from a family of renowned traditional Maori weavers.

She said the flax had played a predominant part in Maori culture, and had once grown in abundance throughout wetlands. The quality of the fibre was similar to linen and there was the possibility of creating new industries to turn the flax into a high fashion fibre. The wax could be used from the surface of the flax blade, other parts could be turned into paper and the gum could be used for cosmetics.

The three year project to determine the variety and properties of the fibre had so far found 63 named varieties, and more were likely.

Work would also be done training people to cut, strip and prepare the flax as well as looking at traditional methods of growing and harvesting.

“New industries such as fibre board and fibre glass are possible and the extent is only limited by our imagination. Flax grows in abundance and there is the opportunity to create employment and a unique industry.”

She asked Environment Waikato to consider becoming involved in identifying the location and quantity of harakeke in the Waikato. The plant could also be used for riparian planting and bioremediation.

Councillors agreed to work with the trust to see how Environment Waikato could assist the project.