New Zealand's largest supplier of Southland beech for the
residential and commercial construction market is seeing
increasing acceptance of the use of the native timber by
While architects and homeowners may have been showing
reluctance in using some native species, Southland beech is
harvested by Lindsay and Dixon under a Ministry of Primary
Industries sustainable management plan and carries
independent certification from the Forestry Stewardship
The fine-grained medium-density hardwood has featured
recently in finishings in the Supreme Court building in
Wellington, Air New Zealand's Koru lounge in Christchurch and
Auckland's Novotel Hotel.
Tuatapere-based sawmiller Lindsay and Dixon, in western
Southland, is a Southland beech supplier certified by the
Forest Stewardship Council. It
accounts for 80% of the sawmilling output of all native
timber in the country.
The company recently commissioned a survey of architects to
determine if there were concerns undermining the use of
Southland beech, traditionally known as silver beech and also
sold as maple and cherry beech, Lindsay and Dixon's managing
director, Bernie Lagan, said the architects surveyed about
using indigenous timber had highlighted the need to protect
native trees and also raised concerns about habitat
''We found that the opportunity to specify native timber was
often muddied by a general trend to avoid native timber.
''People feared for their business reputation and wanted to
be regarded as an environmentally friendly business,'' he
Lindsay and Dixon's permissible annual harvest volume is
23,628 cu m, of all species and log grades, which equates to
a sustainable yield extraction volume of 1.8%, the
international standard being 10% of a forest stock.
Timber totalling an estimated 1.32 million cu m is taken from
seven blocks in the Longwood and Rowallan forests, which are
second-generation regenerating forests covering 11,582ha in
Of the 23,628 cu m, Southland beech is the mainstay species
of the 40-person sawmill, accounting for 90% of all its
The company produces mouldings and furniture-grade timber,
tongue and groove flooring, panels, some laminating and also
wood for processing elsewhere into veneer.
Mr Lagan said up to about 20% of the beech was exported,
generally to Japan, Australia or Malaysia.
The use of Southland beech was widespread during the past
century for flooring, cladding and framing in many Southland
and Otago houses and cottages, alongside matai, totara and
Controversially, in the mid-1990s the government placed a ban
on the export of Southland beech chips, which had been
destined for pulping.
Mr Lagan said in order to make the most of each log milled,
any byproduct and offcut beech was chipped for domestic use,
generally for dairy farm pads.
The rights to mill the Southland beech go back 107 years.
From the 1906 South Island Landless Natives Act, the Waitutu
iwi were awarded land which was later gifted back to the
Crown because of its virgin podocarp value, in exchange for
cutting rights over the regenerating Western Southland beech
''The link to the Waitutu iwi and their absolute right to
derive an income from their land is a sharp contrast to what
many architects thought to be the case,'' Mr Lagan said.
He understood the international environmental accreditation
from the Forestry Stewardship Council was the first achieved
for a managed native forest in New Zealand or Australia.
Waitutu, the local Maori iwi, through its Waitutu Holding
Company has a contractual forestry agreement with the
Government for the cutting rights over the Longwood and
Rowallan forests of Western Southland, in perpetuity.
Sawmiller Lindsay and Dixon has a 100-year contractual
forestry agreement with the Waitutu Holding Company to
sustainably manage and harvest the resource.
SOURCE: LINDSAY and DIXON