Selwyn Sawmills near Hororata in New Zealand is closing due to log shortages, health and safety requirements, and future plans of its owners. Source: Stuff NZ
Timber Industry Federation director Kevin Hing said about 28 mills had closed for various reasons over the past seven years, reducing members of the association to 70.
Selwyn Sawmills is familiar to many Cantabrians because of its position on the main road west from Hororata on a sweeping bend.
It has operated for 78 years under the ownership of the Halliday family with the shareholding currently held by Mike and Anna Halliday and daughter Janet.
Mike Halliday said the business was closing because the 2013 wind storms created a shortage of logs, compounded by Work Safe requirements, and his pending retirement from the business.
“We got in a consultant and the cost to upgrade safety systems would have been too high, but it wouldn’t be fair to say they forced us to close,” he said.
The Canterbury wind storms of 2013 were affecting all sawmills and the volume of logs available was roughly one third of local sawmillers’ requirements.
This was exacerbated by sawmills from Southland also competing for logs, as well as more logs being exported, Halliday said.
“If we had a guaranteed supply of logs we might have been able to sell it as a going concern.
“Another thing was my family would have preferred me to stay on rather than run it on their own because there’s a lot of complicated machinery involved.”
A contributing issue was traffic safety with increasing numbers of vehicles on local roads.
There had been about 16 staff at the mill but numbers had been reduced over the year and most had gone to other jobs after the official closure marked by a farewell function a few weeks ago.
A small number had been retained on cutting work ahead of plans to sell the machinery and property.
Mr Halliday said most staff had been able to find alternative work but older employees had found it more difficult. Some had been with Selwyn Sawmills for decades, he said.