NATIVE SAWMILLS – A brief history along THE NAPIER TAUPO ROAD.
Forestry of one kind or another has always been a major contribution to New Zealand’s rural economy. Initially, the cutting of great indigenous forests of the North Island was regarded as a necessary operation in clearing land for family farms. The best of the timber could be salvaged and pit sawn for building purposes. What was left was simply burnt off in massive ﬁres and the ashes were then seeded to grow pastures.
The scars of the burning, in the form of left-over logs, disﬁgured the hillsides until well into the twentieth century.
Though much of the Hawke’s Bay bush had been burnt in the days before the European, and even Maori, occupation, good stands of bush remained in the interior.
Hawke’s Bay was too far south for the majestic Kauri, but there were good supplies of Rimu, Totara, Matai, Red Beech, and Kahikatea on the Tarawera, Tataraakina and other inland blocks.
The milling of native timber began with the most accessible forests.
Around 1900, a sawmill was established to cut the native Te Pohue bush near the southern boundary of the Kaiwaka block on the Napier Taupo Road, and in combination with another sawmill at Lake Tutira, they produced in excess of one million feet of sawn timber a year. The Te Pohue sawmill closed in 1921.
Robert Holt & Sons in 1923 purchased the Ohurakura native block 28miles (45Kms) from Napier – near Te Pohue and established a sawmill. In its latter years of operation logs were carted from Runanga Block – Rangitaiki Plains. The sawmill closed in 1959.
George Gardner & Sons, King Country sawmilling operations were coming to a close.
In 1927 the company purchased a large native block of bush at Te Haroto, 42 miles (68Kms) from Napier on the top of the Turangakumu Range, but it was not until 1935 before they established a sawmill and started cutting. In 1937 the company obtained cutting rights over a native block at the base of Turangakumu Hill (Waipunga Valley) and established another sawmill, calling it Tarawera Timber Co, – the sawmill was rebuilt after a ﬁre in 1953. The mills became known as Gardner’s Top mill, and Bottom mill. Both mills closed in 1963.
Tuck Bros Ltd, native sawmill – Tataraakina Timber Co, Tarawera, 52 miles (84Kms) from Napier. Established a large modern sawmill, the last native sawmill to be built in NZ. Commenced cutting in1948. Selective logging was carried out in the Tataraakina block.
Sold to Fletcher Timber Co in 1960, the sawmill cut out the Tataraakina bush and closed, December 1966.
McLeod & Gardner Ltd, native sawmill, – Pohokura Timber Co (No connection to the Te Haroto Gardner’s) commenced sawmilling in 1941, at Pohokura. (also known as Old Orchards), 61miles (98kms) from Napier.
During 1958 McLeod & Gardner sold to C & A Odlin Timber & Hardware Ltd.
The sawmill was destroyed by ﬁre, on the night of 13th February 1964, it was not rebuilt, but logging was continued from the Pohokura bush for approximately the next 2 years. The logging contractors, F.G Ware Ltd, then later Odlin’s, carting 118 miles (190 Kms) to Odlin’s Waikoau sawmill, near Lake Tutira, Hawke’s Bay.
Exotic forests – Pinus Radiata tree – approximately a 28 year cycle or (Crop).
Much planting took place in New Zealand during the depression years of the early 1930’s.
In the central North Island, the Kaingaroa Forest, the largest man made forest in the Southern Hemisphere spreads through to the Rangitaiki Plains on the Napier Taupo Road.
As early as 1924 at Te Pohue, on Rukumoana farm a small experimental block of Pinus Radiata was planted. In 1950 large plantings took place creating Rukumoana Forest of approximately 3,000 acres.
From the mid 1960’s onwards, ongoing plantings have taken place along many areas off the Napier Taupo Road. These forest areas of Radiata Pine are logged mainly, to supply the Napier Whirinaki Mill, and log exports through Napier Port, creating important overseas earning for New Zealand.
(Mileages (Kms) measured along the Old Napier Taupo Road).
Michael Palmer Tuck. May 2014.