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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

Our Flax for the Navy

Our Flax for the Navy.

A recent cablegram from London gave the good news that the Admiralty contemplates adopting New Zealand flax as part of the supplies for cordage for the Royal Navy. The fibre is sufficiently strong, the trials showed, to give the breaking strains demanded in official specifications. This market, together with the new venture in developing the flax industry in the place of so much Indian jute importations, should go a long way towards making the native harakeke one of our staple items of cultivation.

But really it is a belated rediscovery, this Navy trial of our flax. More than a century ago, when muka—the dressed article— was New Zealand's principal export, British Navy tests revealed the unexcelled quality of the fibre for ships’ rigging and for all rope and cordage purposes. Not only that, but canvas was made from our flax. One of the Navy ships was supplied at Sydney with a large sail manufactured from flax, and it filled all the requirements of canvas, strong and weather-worthy. Indeed, there are several fabrics that can be made from flax—paper, for one thing, and imitation silk for another.