Fletcher Construction had its origins in 1909, when James Fletcher commenced a small housing building partnership with Englishman, Albert Morris. Though Morris left the partnership early on, Fletcher continued, and in 1919, having been joined in the business by his brothers, Fletcher Construction Company Limited was registered as a limited liability company with a capital of £50,000.
From the outset, the company had tendered for large public works and commercial projects, building the Dunedin municipal swimming pool, as well as the St Kilda Town Hall. In 1925, the company headquarters was moved to Auckland, and through the depression, the firm continued to build some notable landmarks including the Auckland University College Arts Building, Auckland Civic Theatre and the Wellington Railway Station.
In 1940, Fletcher Holdings was formed as a publicly listed company, and the Fletcher Construction Company became one of its subsidiaries. It remained the most significant division of the new public company, assisted by the progressive purchase of building material manufacturers including joinery firms, brick and tile manufacture, concrete production and quarrying.
In the post war period, joint ventures increasingly dominated both the activities of the construction company, as well as Fletcher Holdings. In 1951, forming the first joint venture of its kind in New Zealand, with two American companies, Merritt Chapman Scott (a marine construction specialist), and Raymond Concrete Pile Company, Fletcher successfully bid for the construction of Auckland Harbour Board Freyberg and import wharf.
In 1952 Fletcher Holdings, in conjunction with the Government, formed the Tasman Pulp & Paper Co. Ltd., with the aim of utilising pulp from radiata pine for kraft papermaking in the central North Island. And in 1953, a consortium of Fletcher Holdings, Merritt Chapman Scott, and Raymond Concrete Pile Company commenced construction at the Tasman mill. The total project involved the construction of a pulp and paper plant, sawmill, a wood preparation plant, and a paper finishing plant. In addition, Fletcher construction, working to Ministry of Work plans, built the houses of the Kawerau township. It was the largest construction project undertaken at that time in New Zealand. At its height, the wages bill on site amounted to £40,000 per week-paid in cash each Tuesday.
By the early 1960s, the civil engineering division of the construction company was building tunnels as well as motorways in Auckland and Wellington. The construction of the Christchurch Lyttleton tunnel, involving the laying of 1.5 million tiles, was a joint venture between Fletcher Holdings and Kaiser Construction. In 1965, a consortium of Wilkins and Davies, Bechtel, and Fletcher Holdings commenced construction of the Marsden Point Power station. The company first ventured overseas in 1946 with the launch of Fletcher South Seas Ltd in Samoa. It later expanded into Australia (1949).
By the late 1970s, having ventured into shopping mall development, the construction and property sector of Fletcher Holdings, included significant property interests as well as an increasing focus on construction management, design and build-the company acting as a developer in its own right.
Following the amalgamation of Fletcher Challenge, Tasman Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd, and Challenge Corporation in 1981 to form Fletcher Challenge, the construction company remained one of the firm's highly diversified six divisions, of what was now New Zealand's largest public company. The construction and property division alone, employing 4900 staff.
During the 1980s significant acquisitions in the United States were added to the construction company's overseas interests including Pacific Construction in Hawaii (1986), Weight Schuchart (1987) and Dinwiddie Construction of San Franciso (1988). Combined, the three firms had turnovers of more than US $500 million.
In 1988, Fletcher Challenge purchased the remnants of the Winstone Group, including the firm's quarrying operations, and New Zealand's only drywall manufacturer, Winstone Wallboards.
In 1996, CEO Hugh Fletcher introduced letter stocks to enable international investors to place their money directly in sectors of interest rather than in an amorphous corporate. Fletcher Challenge Building, including the construction division, was constituted as one of the letter stocks, containing both construction and building materials manufacturing units.
However, the Asian financial crisis in 1997, placed considerable pressure on the company, and by July 1999 only one of the four letter stocks, Fletcher Challenge Energy, traded ahead of its listing price three years earlier.
While the energy and paper parts of the business were sold off, Fletcher Building was reconstituted from the building materials and construction sector of the previous, Fletcher Challenge. Incorporated on 19 December 2000, under chief executive Ralph Waters it has been one New Zealand's best-performing listed companies, employing 12,000 people in New Zealand and overseas and dominating the domestic building industry.
By 2002, the construction arm of Fletcher building had backlog of $400 million, caused by projects such as the new Auckland City Hospital (200 million) as well as the Sky City Conference Centre and the Southland Hospital. Further, the engineering division continued its tradition of large-scale infrastructure works, constructing the Manapouri Tailrace Tunnel and the $400 million Manukau Wastewater project.
Laying Stresscrete on the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Tower, Auckland.
Fletcher Building profile
Auckland Sky City Casino and Tower, another Fletcher project.