Holding out for a better future

Barry Mulcahy says if his dad were here, ‘‘he would tell me to buy as much wool as I can, lock...
Barry Mulcahy says if his dad were here, ‘‘he would tell me to buy as much wool as I can, lock the shed up and walk away for two years’’. PHOTO: GEORGE CLARK
Timaru’s last large-scale wool merchant still holds hope for a strong future.

Terry Mulcahy, who died in 2013, started Mulcahy Wool and Skins in 1948.

His son, Barry, took over the business in 1985 and has remained in the wool industry ever since.

The company handles slightly more than 7500 bales a year, ranging from coarse crossbred to fine merino.

Mr Mulcahy has seen it all, from the height of the wool boom to this month’s market lows.

"Everything bounces back. We have diversified, we do merinos and half-breds, possum fur and have always been lean."

After the wool boom, the dairy industry came along and sent the wool industry sideways, he said.

"The dairy industry took over and you cannot blame the farmers for it; they had this much money invested in their properties that they had to keep their head above water.

"Irrigation and technology changed the game in favour of beef."

When Mr Mulcahy came home from overseas and worked for his father, eight trucks used to leave Timaru, plus a few from Ashburton, between Monday and Friday.

"The wool was there," he said.

"There were 75million sheep throughout New Zealand ... the wool was always coming in."

Times have changed.

Many wool merchants used dag crushers; at one stage there were three that he knew of in Timaru, but with the arrival of technology there are now three in the South Island.

"The byproduct out of the dags are worth more to the owners of these crushers than the dag itself."

Every day, someone would comment on how terrible the market is, he said.

He believed the Government had let the industry down. With the stroke of a pen, they could change housing insulation from fibreglass to wool and take steps towards a stronger domestic market, he said.

A petition urging the Government to mandate the use of wool in publicly funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes was presented to Parliament last week

with more than 15,000 signatures.

There are days when he wonders if he should still be doing the job.

"If my dad were here, he would tell me to buy as much wool as I can, lock the shed up and walk away for two years. But you have customers you need to keep serving and we are the only ones left."

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