More than thirty years ago in April 1988 the inaugural meeting of OFPANZ was held in Taupo, driven by Spencer Tankard (of the then Bay Textiles Ltd.) who was voted in as president and presided over by the then named Manufacturers Association of New Zealand. Concurrently, in the South Island, the canvas fabricators had earlier come together to form a similar organisation named the Southern Canvas Group. The members of this group all individually contributed funds to pay for Mike Cross to attend the inaugural Taupo meeting and he returned as vice president. Not long afterwards, the Southern Canvas Group was disbanded and its monies donated to OFPANZ. Within two months of the inaugural meeting, by June 1988, OFPANZ had 34 membership companies.
The goal at this time was to build an organisation that had a sustainable future and could offer long term value to its members, without infringing on individual member rights to the conduct of their own businesses. The purpose of the organisation was to provide services to its members that could only be achieved by group collaboration. The objectives of the group were to:
- Promote an annual conference, trade show and regional meetings.
- Provide opportunities for communication, networking and fellowship.
- Publish an industry newsletter.
- Provide a framework for educational learning and industry training.
- Provide a voice in government.
- Promote industry standards and develop a code of ethics.
- Promote industry growth and employment.
- Develop relationships and links with related organisations outside NZ.
- Encourage industry growth and innovation.
- Promote the industry’s capabilities to the wider marketplace.
The structure of OPFANZ has changed over the years and we currently have approximately 57 members, some of whom were originally present back in 1988. Attending the inaugural meeting with Spencer Tankard were – Alastair Robertson of Gourock NZ (now with Contender NZ Ltd.), Graham Griffin of Palmer Canvas and Synthetics (part of Fabric Structure Systems Ltd.), Brendan Duffy of Canvasland (now retired) and Peter Sweetman of Sweetman and Sons (now retired.).
Supplier companies have been strong supporters of our industry since 1989; those present at the inaugural meeting as suppliers most visibly support the conference every year by way of gold sponsorship. These are by no means the only companies that have supported the organisation over the years. We must not forget the companies that sponsor in different ways via administration, conference, additional sponsorship opportunities, and at our trade exhibitions. Each and every one ensures that our conference is a success, and that our bi-annual Trade Expo is valuable to our fabricator members by way of showcasing machinery, componentry, services available, or generally having everyone in one place to form valuable relationships. Relationships in our organisation are the key to success – working together with other companies to secure and produce outstanding work that reflects the pride we all have in our association.
We must take the time to thank all those people for their foresight, their input and their dedication over the past thirty years.