Dunlop/South Pacific tyre factory; buildings and services.
The first tyres were molded on March 11, 1949 (the same day as Reidrubber's first, and about a year later than Firestone's). The factory was formally opened by the Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, on June 10, 1949.
There was a world-wide agreement that Dunlop would produce Goodyear tyres if there was no Goodyear plant, and vice versa; about a third of the output was intended to be Goodyear India Tyres was a Dunlop subsidiary, and the factory made these for an established distributor, Murray Roberts, as late as 1969.
There were major expansions of the buildings, starting in 1962, when automatically-loading 'Bag-o-Matic' moulding presses were introduced; not long afterwards, the factory produced its first radial tyres. The final major expansion was in 1973, when new machinery to make large numbers of radial tyres was purchased.
The first steel-belted radials were produced in the late 1970s. Reidrubber closed in 1983, and Dunlop acquired its tyre business and relatively-new tyre- and tube-moulding machinery, and moulding presses, and for a short while made Reidrubber-branded tyres.
Dunlop New Zealand was bought by Australia's Pacific Dunlop in 1984; in 1987 a joint venture was formed by Pacific Dunlop and Goodyear; South Pacific Tyres, which at the time was the world's tenth-biggest tyre company.
The company bought Holden New Zealand's Railway Avenue warehouse and office in August 1994, for use as a national distribution centre.
Goodyear bought the company outright early in 2006, and announced that the Upper Hutt plant would close in December; and next year closed their only remaining Australian plant, at Somerton, outside Melbourne. Bridgestone/ Firestone closed the last tyre factories in Australasia in December 2009.
The original factory was intended to employ 500 staff; difficulties late in 1952 saw a low of 92. The author of this page was told that in 1977 there were 850 total; from then on, staff steadily shrank; but production rose from 5 days a week to seven, and from the original 180 000 per year to over 2 000 000.
Tubes, truck and tractor production ceased in 1987, and cross-ply car tyres in 1990.
Other brands, for export, included Remington, 1989; Bob Jane, Olympic and Sumitomo, 1993; Kwik-Fit (U.K.), 2000; a range of Dunlop Tire Corporation brands from 1996, and Goodyear trailer tyres for the U.S.A. in 2002. Some original SP4 steel-radial pattern moulds were re-branded many times.
After production ceased, equipment was removed and exported to Goodyear and other plants during 2007; the only equipment still running by 2011 was run by a company formed by the former factory manager and buyer, using machinery to grind scrap rubber from retreading plants into 'crumb'.
The company was later renamed Goodyear Dunlop Tyres and operated the warehouse and offices in Railway Avenue.
Last edited by: Don McLeod
Aerial view 1954 approx; industrial area beyond railway station, including Dunlop's; looking south-east
Aerial view 1974; city centre looking south-west; Maidstone Mall and Astral Towers under construction.
Dunlop and Felt & Textiles factories, and General Motors warehouse; aerial view from the north-west.