John Fairweather Specialty Timber Solutions
John Fairweather Specialty Timber Solutions produces hardwood timber products from eucalyptus trees grown in Canterbury.
John Fairweather was introduced to forestry when he was a teenager in Dunedin and had to plant some pine trees for his father. As time went by he began to enjoy visiting the land and getting out among the trees. As the trees matured he took over their management and, following advice received from the Forestry Service, they were pruned and thinned to produce a good crop of logs. The question arose as to what species to plant for the next crop. At that time, in the 1980s, there was talk of the “wall of wood” coming on stream in future and the need to consider alternative species, so he decided to plant Eucalyptus regnans. These trees were growing very well in a nearby site and they promised to be a valuable alternative. So he replanted with regnans along with some macrocarpa and some Acacia melanoxylon.
From the mid 1980’s John Fairweather lived in Christchurch and wanted to have a forestry block close to hand to pursue his interest in forestry. So he bought 20 hectares near Sefton in North Canterbury and planted alternative species in an agroforestry regime. The chosen species this time were Acacia melanoxylon, some ground durable eucalypts, and Eucalyptus nitens and Eucalyptus regnans. After trying out the grazing he switched to all forestry and planted pines and macrocarpa in between the wide-spaced blackwood rows.
John Fairweather’s main work was as a social science researcher at Lincoln University. He attained the position of Professor of Rural Sociology. In the weekends he and his wife, Robyn, did the forestry work and nurtured the trees into good shape. While this was going on, John Fairweather realised that there could be a need to do some sawmilling in future so he built a hand-operated band saw mill. The beauty of this machine was that it taught him the basics of milling eucalypts. In 2010 a Wood-Mizer LT40 came up on Trade Me so John Fairweather decided to upgrade his mill. In 2015 he bought an LT70Original home built band mill
In 2012 John Fairweather decided to move from full-time academic work to full-time timber work. In part, this change was necessary because there is no well-established market for eucalyptus timber. The high-value alternative species need some additional inputs to convert the logs into timber. So now John Fairweather buys logs, mills them, dries the timber, and machines it into value-added products, typically flooring. The business has required building a machining shed, a solar kiln, a sawmill shelter and the purchase of necessary machinery to process the wood. As at 2015, most of the development work has been completed and production of value-added products can begin in earnest.