TUCK BROS LTD, Tataraakina Timber Co, Tarawera. (Hawke’s Bay).
Stanley Palmer Tuck. (Stan) (Managing Director of Tuck Bros Ltd,) – 1947 designed, the sawmill to be built at Tarawera, on the ﬂat 44 acre (18 hectares) site alongside the Napier Taupo Road. A Caterpillar D6 bulldozer from Tuck Bros Oruanui sawmill was dispatched late 1947 to construct roads and building sites.
Tuck Construction Ltd, a building company (Registered 27th February 1948) started building the sawmill, February 1948, cookhouse, and 10 single men’s unit’s. March 1949 the 11 staff houses were started and completed 10 months later. Tarawera School, relocated onto a site at the sawmill 1950/51 and enlarged. Company staff consisted of carpenters and a electrician, plumbing and painting was done by selected ﬁrms. Tuck Construction was well set up with on-site concrete batching plant, saws, planer, and sanding machine. Building operations were expertly managed by Eric Holmes Smith, (Smithy) who joined the company on 14th April 1948.
Eric was a Warrant Ofﬁcer in the RNZAF Sawmill Unit commanded by Stan. Pacific Islands World War II. He was building in Gisborne, had heard that Stan Was building a sawmill and was keen to be involved.
Stan, a sawmiller and engineer soon had a section of the sawmill cutting its own building timber – temporarily powered by 120 H.P. 2 stroke GM diesel industrial motor. Two GMC war surplus 6 wheeler trucks were purchased, one used round the building site, while the other carted building materials, steel components and machinery from the company’s Taupo joinery factory, engineering workshop and from other sources. This truck later became the sawmills logging truck until replaced in November 1951 by a new International LF190. Tuck Bros Ltd, named and registered (27th February 1948) the sawmill Tataraakina Timber Co, after the native Tataraakina Block to which they had the cutting rights. Tataraakina sawmill cut it’s ﬁrst production log under steam power on the 20th November 1948.
Completion was now concentrated on the Verticle [Vertical] saw (breaking down saw) to handle the larger logs. The first log to be cut was placed on the vertical saw’s carriage on 14th May 1949. The sawmill was built for an estimated life of 20 years to cut large native logs, of mainly Rimu, Kahikatea, Matai, Totara and Miro.
Only trees marked with a number by the New Zealand Forest Service were logged. This promoted regeneration of bush. The Tataraakina block produced many large trees so the sawmill was designed to cut big logs and even then some logs were too wide for the vertical saw frame and had to be split on the mill skids by blasting.
Roading and Logging:
Road building, – A small bulldozer, Allis Chalmers HD5 followed Stan’s ‘Abony level’ survey trail (a mark by Machete slash) formed a rough track for the larger bulldozer to follow and work, where possible pushing downhill.
The company operated Caterpillar D7 3T and Allis Chalmers HD10. bulldozers. The ﬁrst logging truck was a WWII war surplus GMC 6 X 6 (complete with gun turret). When government overseas purchasing restrictions were lifted in 1951. The GMC was replaced with an American built International LF 190 tandem drive 6 wheeler with a heavy duty logging trailer built at the company’s Taupo engineering workshop. Stan used a large aerial map of the bush area from which he planned, surveyed and supervised building bush roads and bridges. The main bush road established in this steep country with high annual rain fall was 19 miles (31 kms) in from the Napier Taupo Road, with easy gradients and many miles of side roads. Stan received many tributes from engineers and Forestry Ministers for his ability to construct roads in this steep, wet country.
Sawmill power and Electricity:
A horizontal steam engine – English ‘Tangye’ single cylinder – 14.5inch bore (36.8cm), 12 foot ( 3.6 meter) flywheel, powered the main saws and their connected machinery. The boiler, operating at 120 lbs per square inch pressure, fired with timber slabs (reject wood), feeding steam to the steam engine and log skids winch. Within the engine room, electricity was generated by one of two diesel engines driving generators, – one on stand-by. Electricity was used in the sawmill for lighting, and to power electric motors on the Goose saw, sawdust creepers, saw-doctors saw sharpening equipment, the village houses, single men’s quarters, cook house, school, street lighting, and water pump station. The water pump station also had a stand-by diesel motor.
Logs arrived to the sawmill skids by logging truck, cut to length and as most logs were large they entered the mill via the breaking down saw – a large verticle saw that cut the log in half, (length wise)
Smaller logs, would by pass to go straight onto the pacific carriage. From the breaking down vertical saw, the half logs went to the pacific carriage to be cut into flitches (large timber pieces).
Next – to the breast bench cutting the flitches into boards, the waste going into the slab bin for boiler firing. The boards were then end trimmed by the goose saw (sometimes called docking saw) stacked onto a trolley on rails and taken out to the timber sorting skids, tallied (measured), and made up into loads ready for timber trucks to transport to the town retail timber yards. Some timber was stacked filleted (air flow round boards) in the sawmill timber yard for drying and later dispatched. This had the advantage that dry timber allowed more to be carted per truck load. The sawmill produced, on average about 12,000 board feet per day.
Tataraakina sawmill was the last large native sawmill built in New Zealand. It was well planned and constructed, incorporating modern labour saving machinery, much of it built at Tuck Bros Engineering workshop, Taupo.
Housing and school:
The company built 11 modern houses with fenced grounds and vehicle garaging. – 10 single men’s quarters, wash and drying rooms, a well appointed cook house, dinning room, and employed a cook.
By arrangement with the Hawke’s Bay Education Board the Tarawera School was moved by volunteers using the company’s logging truck, from the site near the Tarawera Hotel to the sawmill grounds.
This was completed over the Christmas holiday break, 1950/51.
The school rooms were used for social events. The company gifted a film projector (films were drawn from the National Film Library), built concrete basketball and tennis courts in front of the school, and levelled sports grounds for cricket and football. The village was well lit at night with street lights.
Originally pumped from the Waipunga River, was subjected to being muddied by floods –
Later water of a high quality from a spring in the valley above the mill site, was timber dammed, then pumped into two 7,000 gallon (31,822 Litres) wooden holding tanks manufactured at Tuck Bros Taupo joinery factory. One tank for mill use, the other for the houses, school, and fire hydrants that were set at intervals around the streets.
Employment : Sawmill and bush operations 18 – 20 men. Closed December 1966 after 19 years of operation.
State Highway 5 – now passes over the sawmill building site. – 2.5 Kilometres Napier side of Tarawera Café.
(Revised 25/01/2016. Michael Palmer Tuck).