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Mills starting back

Davis Sawmill in Featherston has kicked into action. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

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The familiar early morning whine of Featherston’s Davis Sawmill was heard last week as the mill machinery kicked into action again.

Wood processing restarted there for the first time in a month after covid-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions.

General manager Murray Oakly has a permanent crew of about 25 people but a skeleton team of seven back on deck at the moment.

He said the company had permission to mill in preparation for this week’s log delivery and timber pickups but could only clear the logs already in the yard.

“It’s as good as gold here – great to be back,” Oakly said.

But he did not know what things would look like this week.

Juken New Zealand Timber [JNL] is not operating yet, but managing director Dave Hilliard said the fact logging was back in business was “good news”.

Hilliard said there was a “huge amount of work going on behind the scenes”.

“We have a team of over 200 to keep safe at the Masterton plant and then the foresters will be coming in,” he said.

“We have to induct a large team in a new way of working

“We have new social distancing methods to manage and there is a big operational chain to get under way. We are taking time to get this right. It is not a matter of flicking a switch and it all sets off again.

“We will start up when we are sure we are ready at all ends of operations.”

The Kiwi Lumber crew is also back.

Kiwi Lumber Holdings managing director Adam Gresham said his Masterton team went back to work last week.

“People are feeling good to be getting back to work that’s for sure. The team is pleased,” Gresham said.

Gresham said the opening had been a “staged start up” for the logging and timber businesses in preparation for today when the country moved into Alert Level 3 covid-19 restrictions.

Throughout Alert Level 4, Kiwi Lumber kept running part of its business as an essential service.

It supplies timber for Tumu Timbers to make packaging crates for the supermarkets and for Bunnings Warehouse.

Gresham said the future was looking better than it did when China shut its port a month before New Zealand shut its borders and went into lockdown.

“We couldn’t supply more timber because manufacturing had ceased in China and the timber and logs that were on the ports were stacked up, but they are running out now,” Gresham said.

“There is a promising outlook as China has cleared its inventory and is ready for more and we are ready to get trading again. But we are concerned that the American market might shut down.”

But overall, prices for timber were lifting and Gresham said the future was looking promising for the industry.

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