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Firm built on school of hard knocks

Tom O'Leary Nov 11
Firm built on school of hard knocks
Northland logging business Cochrane & Son specialises in the marketing and harvesting of private radiata pine wood lots.

Northland Logging business founder Keith Cochrane of Cochrane & Son Logging knows exactly why he has survived and grown the business over 40 plus years. “I have learned the hard way – all brawn no brain you might say,” Keith reflects.

You would be forgiven for thinking that after so many years in the competitive industry Keith works in that he would be thinking seriously about time off the machines but that attitude isn’t really in his nature.

“When Shelley and I started the company I set out wanting to grow and to have a good company to pass on to the family.

When our son Grant bought in in 2012 it was the start of the succession plan unfolding but I wasn’t ready to step right back – there’s too much to do and I enjoy it,” Keith says. Home-base is Maungakaramea, some 20 km south and inland from Whangarei.

The overall business operates under three related companies, the Logging processing company Cochrane & Son, it’s complementary marketing arm, Quality Log Marketing and Management Ltd, established in 2012.

This business specialises in the marketing and harvesting of private radiata pine wood lots, buying timber on the stump or selling by way of a managed log sale.

Cochrane & Son Logging supplies Rosvall Sawmill, Croft Poles, two CHH sawmills in Whangarei along with CHH’s LVL plant at Marsden Point and Marusumi at Portland.

The trucking company is overseen by head driver Wayne Cavaye and he has two other drivers working with him.

These days, being out in the field involves being responsible for buying all the wood, taking care of the necessary consents, organising all the engineering for the blocks and taking care of their marketing and ongoing management.

Success comes down to keeping your head in the future in the logging industry and ideally Keith and Grant try to keep about 12 months or so ahead all the time.

This is important given ongoing commitments to staff, who Keith describes as multi-skilled.

“We actually take a lot of young fellas on and we try to keep them as well, putting them alongside our experienced competent operators.

“This is a tough industry and even for us old fellas you have to have the attitude that if you’re not learning something every day then there’s something wrong.”

Cochrane & Son Logging Ltd operates a Thunderbird 155 Swing yarder with grapple and camera, three excavators, a bulldozer and a skidder.

Most of this gear is serviced in-house but when major work is required the company uses NT Engineering based in Whangarei. Finding good keen staff is a constant challenge in the logging industry.

Keith says he feels the polytechnic courses offered to develop the necessary skill-sets he’s after are unfortunately more to do with bums on seats than anything else.

“I would certainly like to take on more staff and have been advertising but it is hard to find staff who are prepared to work hard and to the standards I expect.”

Keith says while markets have been buoyant he carries a significant concern about the overseas companies being allowed to buy our forests, then cutting these at a young age (18 years) and not allowing them to grow to maturity.

“This will definitely have a downstream effect for contractors and the industry generally in years to come.”

Cochrane & Son Logging Ltd operates under an approved Health and Safety Policy. All gang members are L.I.F.T.B. accredited.

Keith says having a bank manager, an accountant and solicitor who understand the industry have been big factors in the company’s success.

“That, and my bloody mindedness and stubbornness has helped!” As for the future, Keith and Shelley intend in the not-too-distant future to leave the next evolution in the development of the businesses in Grant’s capable hands.

“We pride ourselves on its quality and log recovering processes and on our very fine record with regard to Health and Safety.

“I am happy with what has been achieved and it is good to have Grant in the company able to take over fully in the future.”

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