Niagara has been sawmilling since 1935. We have a proud history of responsible forestry and timber processing. A great deal of effort and experience goes into producing a quality product and with over 86 years entrenched in the sawmilling business Niagara is at the forefront, a world-class leader in its field.
Craigpine was established in 1923 as Port Craig Timber. A company with a long and rich history, Craigpine has been exporting timber for over 90 years. Craigpine currently export high quality sawn Radiata Pine to over 22 markets around the world. Craigpine hope to be at the forefront of forestry internationally for at least another 90 years.
In 1916, the Marlborough Timber Company recognised the milling potential of the coastal forests of Western Southland. During this time, New Zealand native species of Rimu and Beech were the backbone of the sawmilling industry and Port Craig was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the plentiful supply of these key species. As it became known, Port Craig is situated on the south-western corner of Te Wae Wae Bay on the South Coast of the South Island.
Over 150 men were employed, and they processed up to 1800 cubic metres of timber per month. At its peak, the settlement at Port Craig had a school, a blacksmiths shop, a wharf, a cookshop, a bakehouse, accommodation for the workers, and was home to the largest and most technologically advanced sawmill in New Zealand. With a capacity of 40,000 feet of sawn timber per eight-hour day, it was four times larger than a conventional New Zealand mill of the era.
No one could accuse the company of not aiming high. Impressed by North American technology and methods, it imported a Lidgerwood Overhead Logging Plant, a huge 80-tonne steam skidder to haul logs along a 14.6km long tramway which ran between Port Craig and the Wairaurahiri River. To span the deep river valleys, four viaducts were built and at 125 metres long and 36 metres high, the Percy Burn viaduct is the largest of these four and the largest remaining timber viaduct in the world.
As the depression approached, Port Craig had over-invested. The mill had cost more than expected, and the company debt rose with each tree that fell. Competition from West Coast timber and falling prices forced the closure of Port Craig in 1928. The mill re-opened briefly in 1930, but closed within months, this time for good. Most of the machinery was left to decay, where it remains, along with the school (now a tramping hut) and the viaducts, which were re-decked as footbridges.
In the 1970’s Port Craig Timber acquired Marshall and Sons Winton Sawmill and completed the transition from milling NZ native rimu and beech to sustainable radiata pine. The rebrand from Port Craig Timber to Craigpine occurred in 1988 and was reflective of this new focus on pine, and an aim to align with the growing demand for sustainable timber.
Having owned Craigpine for an impressive 97 years, the Black family sold the company to Niagara in 2020. Under Niagara’s ownership, Craigpine has seamlessly transitioned to a thriving sawmill operation that supports Niagara’s main operation based in Kennington. With this integration, Craigpine continues its rich legacy while contributing to the success and growth of Niagara’s overarching operations.