New Zealand Steel

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This page was printed from on 25 Apr 2014

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The story of New Zealand Steel is as much the story of the 'black sands' of the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.

First noted by Captain James Cook in 1769, these ironsand deposits were long recognised as a rich reserve of metal ore.

The ironsand (titanomagnetite) was formed through the breakdown of rocks originating from volcanic activity in Taranaki 2.5 million years ago. Over time, the heavy, dark sands were transported by ocean currents and deposited on beaches, forming dunes of up to 90 metres high.

Early European settlers to the west coast were intrigued by the sands' magnetic qualities. But experiments to smelt the iron from the ironsand met with little success.

It wasn’t until the 1950s, with both the local economy and steel demand growing, that serious consideration was given to utilising this valuable resource in a home grown steel industry. At about the same time, new technologies were evolving overseas that made possible the use of ironsand in steelmaking.

So in 1959, the government established the New Zealand Steel Investigating Company to determine the technical and economic feasibility of manufacturing steel from indigenous raw materials.

The Birth of New Zealand Steel

Pouring Molten Steel

New Zealand Steel Limited was incorporated in 1965. The long-term vision of those behind it was to establish a steel industry that would utilise the abundant local raw materials.

In 1966, construction started on a mill at Glenbrook, 65 kilometres south east of Auckland. Commercial operations began in 1968, with imported feed coil being used to produce GALVSTEEL™ steel for domestic and Pacific Island markets.

Meantime, the company had been pioneering the direct reduction process for reducing iron oxide (ironsand) into metallic iron. This culminated in the commissioning in 1970 of iron and steelmaking facilities to produce billets for domestic and export markets.

Expansion continued with the commissioning of a pipe plant in 1972 and a COLORSTEEL® prepainting line in 1982. Total output at this time averaged 300,000 tonnes a year.

An Integrated Steelworks for New Zealand

Hot Strip Mill

Major investment in the 1980s saw the commissioning of continuous slab-casting facilities and both Hot and Cold Strip mills. By 1987, New Zealand Steel was operating as a fully integrated steelworks, producing flat steel products made solely from New Zealand Steel feed stock.

The existing continuous galvanising line was modified in 1994 to produce ZINCALUME® steel, in addition to traditionally hot dipped galvanised products.

Today, the rich 'black sands' of the North Island continue to underpin steelmaking at Glenbrook.

Owners Through the Years

1959New Zealand Steel Investigating Company set up by the New Zealand government.
1965New Zealand Steel Limited formed as a private company.
1986New Zealand government acquires 81.2% shareholding, following a capital reconstruction.
1987Government shareholding increases to 90%, following another capital reconstruction.
1987New Zealand Steel is acquired by Equiticorp.
1989New Zealand Steel is acquired by Helenus Corporation, which comprises Fisher & Paykel, Steel & Tube, ANZ Bank (NZ) Group Ltd and BHP.
1992BHP takes up a controlling interest with an 81% shareholding by acquiring the shares of Fisher & Paykel and Steel & Tube. The company is renamed BHP New Zealand Steel Limited.
2002BHP Steel is listed as a public company, and the company renamed New Zealand Steel.
2003BHP Steel renamed BlueScope Steel.