Iconic timber firm continues to evolve

Iconic timber firm continues to evolve
Radiata Pine accounts for about 70% of all timber milled by Sutherland & Co with Douglas Fir accounting for 30%.

Family owned and operated, iconic Canterbury company Sutherland & Co. is nearing 100 years in the business of milling timber, with momentum building and planning already underway for its celebrations.
Initially established as a sawmill in Southland when three of the Sutherland brothers returned from the horrors of the First World War, the operation found its way to Kaiapoi in the mid 1950’s, closer to the Lyttelton Port and the growth of Christchurch city.
In the mid 1980’s Murray (Muzz) Sutherland took over management of the operation, developing export markets to Australia, Asia and the United States along with the local framing markets for Douglas Fir.
In recent years Sutherland & Co has continued to evolve to include three ITM Stores – Kaiapoi, Ashburton and Timaru.
While Muzz and his wife Anne (Annie) remain very much part of the business, they are now joined by their children, fifth generation family members Jonnie, Davie and Amy, each taking key roles along side their parents.
“As a family we love being part of the timber industry—it’s what we do,” says Jonnie, who now holds the role of General Manager.
“There’s not a job in the company that I’d ask one of the team to do that I wouldn’t do myself and that applies to all family members.” In total the group employs 85 staff, with 35 involved in the sawmill alone.
“There’s a very good culture at the sawmill and we don’t have very high staff turnover. We’re a family owned business with family values and that fi lters throughout the team.”
Jonnie says the sawmill has been the core activity and backbone of the business for the last 98 years.
With a processing plant that includes a drying kiln, treatment plant and planer mill, some 80 cubic metres of Pinus Radiata and Douglas Fir are processed each day, five days a week, all year round, save for two weeks at Christmas time.
Currently, Radiata Pine accounts for about 70% of all timber milled by Sutherland & Co with Douglas Fir accounting for 30%.

Iconic timber firm continues to evolve
The Sutherland and Co sawmill’s processing plant includes a drying kiln, treatment plant and planer mill.

“We export roughly 25 – 30% of what we mill,” explains Jonnie. “The rest is used in New Zealand. We use a fair bit ourselves through our own retail outlets and the truss and frame plant.
“The balance goes to other outlets predominantly in the South Island with a little bit going into the North Island.” Passionate about timber and the future of the industry, Jonnie extols the virtues of timber as a building material.
“I think that timber has a great future in our building industry. There will always be new houses required and timber as a product is lightweight, durable and renewable. It’s environmentally friendly. It’s a naturally warm product, as opposed to many products on the market. Timber decks on a home always provide a nice look and feel.”
He says that at last count timber framing covered off 87% of the infrastructure around domestic housing. “I can’t see that changing whether its solid timber, CLT (Cross laminated timber) or LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber)—it’s still timber.”
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