A unique interlocking concrete block system designed by Westlock Concrete Solutions Ltd will soon provide a long-term solution to the devastating effects of coastal erosion.

Westlock, based in Buller in the West Coast of the South Island, has teamed with Whangarei-based Busck Prestressed Concrete Limited, to make the interlocking concrete blocks that will be placed in harsh marine environments, waterways & many civil applications from bridges to retaining walls.

Westlock, who have a staff of four, design the blocks and hold the intellectual property; Busck makes them – and both play a part in marketing.

The two-tonne blocks have a 45 kilo reinforced steel cage, 8 per cent micro silica blended concrete starting at 45 MPa but curing fully to around 70 MPa. A MPa (megapascal) is the metric equivalent of psi – or pounds per square inch.

“They are incredibly strong,” Westlock Managing Director Chris Fleury says. “Nobody else makes these. It’s a very different product that’s going out into the marketplace – it’s a permanent solution.”

Because the reinforced blocks also interlock, they provide better protection against storm and flood damage. While up- front costs may be slightly higher, the blocks are more durable, longer lasting, and are far less likely to have ongoing maintenance.

Westlock director Toni O’Keefe, who lives in the West Coast, has had first-hand experience of the potential damage to coastal homes, having owned one for 20 years. She wanted to do something about it, and in 2018, Westlock Concrete was born.

“I have lived with the experience of potentially losing my home. We got sick of being let down by rock walls. The main motivation for us was to find a better solution.”

That solution may not have come to fruition had it not been for the ‘fantastic relationship’ Westlock was able to form with Busck, who can make blocks in any of their branches nationwide – or on-site, which keeps transport costs down.

O`Keefe says success of a startup like Westlock Concrete comes down to ability, but more importantly, the people you surround yourself with and doing due diligence on them. In the case of Busck, they had to be relied on by Westlock to make their ideas like interlocking blocks come to fruition.

Westlock Concrete
Westlock partnered with Busck to produce a superior engineered block and placement method that complies with NZ engineer standards.

“We have the engineering experience to be able to create the block; but it’s about finding the right relationships. We clicked with Busck straight away. They have 80 years of experience, expertise, and were really welcoming and very supportive of new ideas.”

Westlock first built a wall at Westlock co-founder Martin Hill’s West Coast coastal residence in Hector.

“We did a trial wall, a 40m long wall on the beach, five stacks high, about a year ago. It took a week and a half to install,” Chris Fleury said. “Next, we are installing two farm bridges in Ashburton & an access way off Hokitika beach with further jobs planned in the North Island and South Island regions.”

Westlock’s upcoming projects ranging from $250,000 to a 400m long wall that could cost $2.5m. Are they talking to other interested parties?

“Yes, with insurance companies, which we just started last week,” Fleury said.

Insurance company revenue and premiums are based on calculated risk, and a more permanent coastal wall can mitigate risks of damage to coastal residences, thus affecting insurance premiums.

To ensure Westlock’s interlocking blocks succeed in the market, Fleury said he has endeavoured to prove the performance of their product, found a reliable supplier in Busck, who could then ensure that increasing orders are filled.

“They said ‘leave it with us.’ It’s nice that we can give them an order, and they can deliver it when we want it.”

Fleury says to succeed, businesses need to do their research, know the market and try something different.

“It’s an idiot who does the same thing over and over again and expects a different result.”

To be successful, Fleury says a startup must know and test the market, be prepared with marketing material and a have a strategy to go to the marketplace.

“That’s the whole thing about the business, all we have done is come up with an idea, and we want to sell it on to the people who can apply it – including overseas, which we are currently working on.”

Story created in partnership with Development West Coast.

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