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Rural schools rally behind wool industry, plan to turn down synthetic carpet

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New Zealand Rural Schools Leadership Association president Andrew King said out of principle, some schools will not have the synthetic carpet installed. Photo: 123RF

Some rural schools are going to turn down the offer of having new synthetic carpet installed in their classrooms.

The Ministry of Education has signed a contract with US firm Milliken to lay nylon carpet tiles in more than 600 rural schools.

That decision has sparked outrage among rural communities and farmers who question why the ministry is not supporting the local wool industry.

New Zealand Rural Schools Leadership Association president Andrew King said out of principle, some schools would not have the carpet installed.

"There's a few boards I know of that don't want it in their school and they intend to decline having the carpet installed.

"And the point of view of a lot of rural schools is it's a local product, it's a fire retardant carpet, odour resistant, it's long lasting, it's more environmentally sound to be buying local, or, you know, nationally rather than importing and the wool industry is already in a difficult space so it makes sense to support it."

Rural schools saw it as part of their role to support the rural communities that they served, King said.

That meant buying local products such as wool.

RNZ understands wool industry representatives were set to meet this week to discuss a plan to take to the Ministry of Education.

But ministry spokesperson Scott Evans said the contract had been signed and would not be reconsidered.

"The decision for schools in the Ngā Iti Kahurangi Programme to use the procured carpet rests with individual schools, state schools have the option to install carpets of their choice using other capital funding they receive for property improvements."

Evans said none of the potential suppliers put forward a locally manufactured carpet. Just one was made from New Zealand wool but manufactured overseas.

"There were no tenderers that actually manufacture the carpet tiles in New Zealand. One supplier - Wools of New Zealand - put in a bid but it wasn't suitable."

Primary school carpets needed to endure heavy use and plenty of dirt as well as last for a substantial length of time, so the ministry chose the most suitable and cost effective option, he said.

"The selected carpet tiles exceeded the ministry's requirements so won the tender."