NZ – NZ's only old-fashioned foundry fires up furnace one final time

After more than a century in business, the country's only old-fashioned foundry has fired up its furnace for one final time.

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Foundries are factories which create castings by melting down scrap metal into liquid form before being poured into a mould."It's the last one of these type of foundries in New Zealand. In 1970 there was about 50 or 60," Bob Austin of Austin's Foundry told Seven Sharp. Austin's father started the business back in 1920, before moving to the current site in Kensington, Timaru, a decade later The 96-year-old has been working in the family foundry since he was 13.

"We've had six employees that have left school and finished their working life here," the third-generation owner of the foundry, Ken Austin, said. Foundrymen Laurie and Andrew have been working in the business for 44 years each. Scraps of cast iron go into a furnace which is fuelled by coke. Coke burns up to 2000C – enough to turn cast iron into liquid. They're then poured into moulds to make much-needed items such as manholes and farm rollers.

But now, after more than a century in business, they're shutting up shop due to economic pressures. Cast iron is getting harder to find, and coke now costs twice as much to freight from China. There are also concerns around its environmental impact.

"We're green in the recycling side but when it comes to using coal, we're supposedly not so green," Ken said.

While other foundries went electric, the Austins wanted to keep casting the old-fashioned way for as long as they could.

"I’ve been fortunate enough that I can just walk away from it," Ken said.

"It's a pity it's going but... Plenty of [happy memories]. Plenty of them," Bob said.