Industrial production has increased rapidly since the end of World War II, stimulated by intermittent import controls that often enabled domestic industry to increase output without competition. A most significant feature of New Zealand industry in recent decades has been the establishment of heavy industry with Commonwealth and US capital. Plants include metal and petroleum processing, motor vehicle assembly, textiles and footwear, and a wide range of consumer appliances. The New Zealand Steel company manufactures billet slabs and ingots using domestically produced iron sands; Pacific Steel, which processes scrap metal, uses billets from New Zealand Steel. In 1995, crude steel production totaled 800,000 tons. The Tiwai Point aluminum smelter, operated by an Australian-Japanese consortium, has an annual capacity of 244,000 tons. New Zealand's aluminum smelter production amounted to 280,296 tons in 1995. The small but growing electronics industry produces consumer goods as well as commercial products, such as digital gasoline pumps. Wool-based industries have traditionally been an important part of the economy, notably wool milling, the oldest sector of the textile industry. Other significant industrial areas include a diverse food-processing sector, tanneries, sheet glass, rubber, and plastics.
Progressive withdrawal of government support beginning in 1985 led manufacturing to decline from 1987–89 due to a more competitive environment. However, after cutting overcapacity, many firms increased productivity and were ultimately in a stronger financial position. Industrial output has recovered since 1990. Manufacturing's contribution to GDP (at current prices) rose by 2.3% annually between 1988 and 1998.