Sawmill for the chop?

Last updated 13:00 25/02/2014
David Havili
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
GLOOMY FUTURE: Grant Russ is finding it hard to source logs for his Appleby sawmill.

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With restructuring expected in the timber industry in the Nelson region as log exports bypass local sawmills, Grant Russ is on the verge of deciding to close his Appleby sawmill because he can't get logs.

His is a small mill that used to employ four staff, now there's just two.

"They just keep pumping more and more logs across the wharf.

"The Government sold off the forests and never put a provision in to supply local mills.

"I am at a standstill, I can't get logs any more.

"Even if you pay the export price, they just don't want to know you."

He doesn't blame the private forest owners.

"If you had a block of trees after waiting 30 years you'd want to get the best price."

Six years ago the mill used to do six to eight loads a week, around 200 tonnes. Now he's lucky if he does one load.

He mills douglas fir and radiata pine but says it is harder to get douglas.

"We had a sustainable douglas fir plantation in Nelson, now they're planting radiata in behind because it's a quicker grower, it takes 30 years instead of 40 years minimum for douglas.

"Douglas is more environmentally friendly, you've got to treat and grade radiata."

He was talking to a builder who told him a lot of timber he was supplied was "rubbish".

"The best stuff must go to Christchurch or overseas."

His father, Victor Russ, set up the mill and Grant, 63, has worked there since he was 12.

"I can't sit here and do nothing. I might as well close up and go on the dole."

It's not just the sawmill that would be a loss to the region, his firewood business that keeps many homes warm would go too if he can't get logs.

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- Nelson

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