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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 4, 2001

Brookside Mill 1962–1982

Brookside Mill 1962–1982

page 23

In 1962 the Baigent name was Timber around the Nelson area. At that time the extensive planting in Pigeon Valley came on stream, and a decision was made to close several small mills and build a large, modern complex just north of Wakefield, near the Wai-iti river. Land was purchased at the end of Bird Lane and the name Brookside was chosen for the mill. The site was on land which had been owned by the pioneer Joshua Bird in 1852 and his home, named Brookside, stood on the eastern part of the land, across the main road, until the 1960s.

The four small mills which closed were Kainui, manager Percy Symes, 88 Valley, manager Cyril Riddle, Quail Valley (or Belgrove), manager Les Coleman and Redwood Valley, manager Charlie Benseman.

Brookside Mill opened in 1962 with Noel Jarrett as manager, and functioned for about 10 years with a few basic operations. There was a log edger with two saws, from which slabs went to the breast bench, which had a single saw. Other timber went on a chain to a frame saw, with approximately 18 saws with an up-and-down movement, a vertical saw. Good boards then went to the main chain, while timber with bark progressed to the board edger, which had two saws for trimming.


As the mill expanded so did the staff, from 17 in 1962 to around 50 in 1982. Noel Jarrett was the manager until 1978, after which he was the Production Manager in the Nelson office. The foreman, Cyril Riddle, then became the key man and he transferred to the newly opened modern and partly computerised Eves Valley Mill when Brookside closed. Charlie Benseman was the yardman, Trevor Barton operated the treatment plant and Syd Smith was the foreman in charge of Posts and Poles.

The burner

Local macrocarpa was used for drying racks and the huge, cone-shaped burner was 60 foot (18m) high on a 60 foot base. Refuse was fed by chain from the mill into the burner through an opening three-quarters of the way up. It operated all the time, helped by a forced draught. The fire had been shut down by 1976 because the smoke was considered a nuisance.

page 24

Sawdust was then sent to Pigeon Valley, while slabs and dockings were fed into the chipper.

Expansion in the 1970s

The board edger was replaced by a breast bench, with timber free of bark going directly from the frame to the sorting chain. Packets of 600 super feet of timber were loaded onto railway irons, a tractor and trailer unit was backed under and the timber was then tipped onto the trailer rollers and taken to appropriate areas for filleting (stacking with spacers for drying). Depending on the weather, drying the 10 ft (3m) covered stacks could take from three weeks to three months. The bundles of timber 2 ft by 2 ft (600mm by 600mm), were then sorted for market or treatment.


Timber was sold locally or trucked to the port of Nelson for dispatch to Petone, Sydney or, in squares of 6–12 inches (150mm-300mm), to Japan.


1.Tanalised: The tanalith was brought by truck from Christchurch in drums. A large cylinder containing timber on trolleys at the end of Bird Lane was filled with tanalising liquid and then pressurised until treatment was completed. The liquid was then pumped out to a storage tank, while the trolleys of timber were pulled out and drained on a concrete pad. The timber was then filleted and dried. This treatment extended the life of timber and posts, and prevented borer or marine life infestation.
2.Boric treatment: Near the tanalith plant was a tank half filled with water to which boron was added. The temperature in the tank was raised to below boiling point by diesel-heated hot-air pipes. Timber was lowered into it by winch for between 5 and 10 minutes, until there was sufficient penetration, and then lifted out and drained. The packets of timber were then placed in a sealed bay so that diffusion (absorption) could take place. The process took eight weeks to complete, and borer-proofed the timber which was used for building purposes.

Posts and poles

This operation processed smaller logs and the tops of logs, which were cut to length and then de-barked. They were sprayed for anti-sap stain and fungi prevention, and then dried and tanalised for uses which included telegraph poles, marine piles and for haysheds.

Shorter lengths went to the sorting chain, where four men sorted for length and diameter. At this stage some were pointed and some were sawn into half-posts. They were then bundled and tanalised for sale and used for page 25farm fences, grape posts, deer fence posts and kiwi fruit stays. The latter would be the smaller diameter posts.


A planer operated in its own shed where dried timber was dressed for orders, either straight or to building requirements, such as architraves. This mill could cope with dressing timber up to 12 inches (300mm) wide.


This disposed of waste timber up to 8 by 6 inches (200mm by 150mm). It was quite large for the time, being fed from the chain with feed rollers. The chips were then belt-fed to a hopper which opened to fill the bins on the chip liner trucks underneath. The chips were exported from Port Nelson to Japan.

The land where Brookside Mill operated until 1982 is still owned by Carter Holt Harvey, which owns Eves Valley Mill.