Spunlite began as a part of the Vibrapac company, a concrete block plant in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1962 they began their journey into concrete lighting and power poles before being purchased by Winstone Ltd and deciding in 1972 that the pole side of the business wasn’t their primary focus. Winstone Ltd sold the company to Eric & Beverley Wright who swiftly took over and developed Spunlite, which has since become the number one pole manufacturer and supplier in New Zealand.
In 1989, Eric brought his son, Stuart Wright, into the family business, giving the company more flexibility to increase and grow Spunlite with new clients, increased staff and develop their manufacturing processes. The company proceeded to see tremendous growth. When Eric first took over the company and developed Spunlite, the manufacturing process took a significant amount of time and the company would do 5 or 6 spun concrete poles each day. These were created using moulds and reinforcing steel. As the manufacturing process developed and more staff were employed, the company was able to increase their production up to 10 or 11 poles per day.
Eventually steel poles began to come into favour. These poles had made quite an impact overseas and the Christchurch City Council were interested to trial some down Memorial Ave. Spunlite imported these poles and saw great success with them. The council were interested in bringing more steel poles to the streets of Christchurch so eventually Eric contracted a Christchurch company to do some fabrication of our own New Zealand made steel poles. With steel poles being much safer than concrete poles, particularly for automobile accidents due to their ability to dent, deform and fall over easily if hit by a car, they quickly became the preferred option around the country. Steel poles are safer, more durable, lighter and easier to transport therefore the manufacturing process is quicker and much more flexible. The number of poles that Spunlite can now produce each day is now dictated by labour and machinery, seeing the company grow exponentially.
A Wider Variety of Steel Poles
In the mid-2000’s the manufacturing of concrete poles became obsolete due to the significant drop in demand and steel poles became the norm. In 2006, Spunlite redeveloped their Christchurch site and built a large warehouse production facility, enabling them to develop higher quantities and larger types of poles, and enabled them to automate the manufacturing process. This provided an extra level of safety for staff and allowed the company to effectively ship poles around the country to new clients. Additionally, this new production facility allowed the company to look at bigger projects and seek a wider involvement with telecommunications providers such as Vodafone, Spark and 2 Degrees. Each year, Spunlite produce over one hundred communication poles for these clients.
Spunlite have made leaps and bounds in the industry, and continue to lead the market, constantly challenging itself, pushing into new areas and seeing success from their greatest achievements. In 1998, the company signed on for its first major project – the floodlighting masts for Carisbrook Stadium. Spunlite worked with several other companies on a joint venture to develop the 4 x 48-metre-tall floodlighting masts, which each weighed 12 tons. The manufacturing, delivery and design was the biggest in terms of sheer scale the company had seen and gave the company the confidence and ability to continue venturing into these large-scale projects. When Carisbrook Stadium closed, the floodlights and floodlighting masts were repurposed and are now used at the temporary AMI stadium in Christchurch. Since then, Spunlite have embarked on many other large projects including Rugby Park Invercargill (Southland Rugby) in 2002 and Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe (Counties Manukau Rugby) in 2009 as well as subdivisions around New Zealand, motorways including the new Northern Corridor in Canterbury and floodlighting masts for other stadiums around the country.
In 2019, Spunlite completed a 137-metre-tall communications mast for the Wellington region. This mast weighed 26 tonnes and required 11 trucks to transport it to the site. The success of this mast led to the company being asked to build a similar 80-metre-tall mast for Samoa in the same year. This mast weighed 15 tonnes and was shipped to the islands in nine 40-foot containers.
Spunlite plan to continue their constant evolution of the company and look to new product development. They aim to find new ways to meet their client needs and attain the maximum possible market and are looking forward to further growing the business into the future.
Photographs from the Archives
Davey Cross completing preparation work on cast aluminium decorative poles. Davey was ex. All Black coach, Sir Steve Hansen’s Grandfather.
“Spuncrete” concrete pole factory in early 1970’s and located at the same site as current Christchurch factory. Concrete poles were first made here in 1962.
8.5m Suburban and 10.0m Highway Poles ready to be transported to a customer after loading by, left to right, Tony McDonald and Steve de la Cour. Steve recently retired after 38 years service.
Company founder Eric Wright (2nd from the left) assisting the team with a reinforcing cage for a “L Type” 3.5kN transmission pole.
Staff with company founder Eric Wright (3rd from the left) cira.1970s. Several of these staff worked for the company for more than 15 years.