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With doubt over the future of the Reefton sawmill, there are fears a possible closure could mark not just the end of the Forever Beech story, but the end of sawmilling in the entire Inangahua area.
Forest Beech grew from the native logging ban of 2000, and was heavily subsidised by the West Coast Development Trust (now DWC) by at least $6million.
Forever Timber Ltd began in Hokitika, cutting beech harvested from private land as a replacement for rimu and other native timbers from public forests.
However, things soon went wrong. DWC bailed it out in 2003 with an initial investment of $3million, and later ploughed in another $3million.
The major early problem was they had vastly underestimated the time it took to dry beech.
Eventually, Forever Beech was sold to Sustainable Forest Products and moved from Hokitika to Reefton. Development West Coast then wrote off almost $6million.
Yesterday, the company's shareholders said they were not prepared to put in any more money into the venture.
If it closes, it would leave the district without a sawmill for the first time in 150 years.
- Greymouth Star