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New skills . . . Parkside Quarries machine operator Duston King with the GMM Zeda automatic cutting and shaping machine the company has recently bought. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Parkside Quarries is making sure it stays at the cutting edge of its industry.

The Weston-based home of Oamaru stone has bought a state-of-the-art automatic bridge sawing and moulding machine – GMM Zeda – one of only two in the Southern Hemisphere and the only one in New Zealand.

It enabled structures to be scanned and mapped as computer-aided design images and replicated almost exactly, which had the potential to have a big impact on heritage buildings in the Waitaki district and further afield, Parkside Quarries sales and marketing manager Ramahia Keno said.

It had already attracted the attention of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust as the technology could be used to map existing structures and the information held on file was useful if there was a need to replace aspects of buildings in the future.

“People in the industry are following this with a lot of interest and we hope it will grow stone masonry in the town.

“This is the way forward. All we have done [in the past] is mine stone and cut it to size,” Ms Keno said.

“We relied on tools and technology that has not changed much. We want to be at the cutting edge.”

Duston King, the machine operator, would not disclose the price of the GMM Zeda CNC, other than to say it was a “big investment”.

The only other one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere was in Sydney.

“We were sending a lot of stone away to be worked on. This means we can do a lot ourselves,” Mr King said.

“It gives us options – it is another string to our bow.”

The machine could pivot on five axes and used different fittings to etch, cut and engrave, based on what was programmed. It had the ability to cut material as hard as granite, so had little trouble getting through the softer Parkside limestone.

Since its arrival last week, Mr King has been undergoing training from an Auckland-based operator.

“It is a bit of a learning curve, and it is done on the computer,” he said.

The sawing and moulding machine came from Italy, which had been “the home of stone cutting since day dot”, Mr King said.