Surviving the cut: Nundle Saw Mill saved when chips were down

THE Nundle Saw Mill has returned from the abyss after a Tintinhull farmer gave the historic site a lifeline last week.
Nanjing Night Net

The timber mill was set to shut down for good last Friday until Wayne Simmons gallantly stepped in and bought it.

“This could have been gone on Monday and they weren’t going to reopen it,” Mr Simmons said.

“I thought I’d keep it going, keep the boys in work. It’s a bit of an icon for Nundle.”

But Mr Simmons doesn’t see the mill as a charity case – on the contrary, he has big ideas for its future.

These include exporting logs to China and woodchip to Korea, which he says is a first out of the Nundle mill.

He is also thinking further afield to renewable fuel – using pulp in lieu of coal – and will purchase machinery for this further down the track.

“These are the ways we’re going to make this work,” he said.

Mr Simmons was also concerned the mill’s closure would affect his contract to provide bird meat farmers with bedding.

“We’re in the chook-hub region and you can’t get this sawdust anywhere else. I am the only mill that’s going to be doing this type of timber in about 250km,” he said.

Seven of the mill’s 14 employees were saved when Mr Simmons bought the facility, and he hopes to increase the number of employees once the mill expands.

“We’ll get there. If we keep the same production rate going and get a better price for our timber, well that’s a recipe for success,” he said.

It seems one of the ingredients has already come to fruition, with Forestry now willing to move on its prices.

“Forestry wants this mill to keep going … there’s mature timber up there and we’ve got to use it,” he said.

“They’ve got behind me price-wise, so I can try to make it work.”

New machinery is also on its way from America that will yield shavers rather than woodchip, and will bring the “antique” mill up to date.

An egg farmer from Moonbi has already shown interest in the shavers, which, unlike straw and hardwood, don’t discolour his eggs.

Shavers also don’t have to be washed and can go from the hen to the carton in one less step, Mr Simmons said.

While Mr Simmons’s ideas for the mill are yet to be tried and tested, the fact it will remain open is undeniably positive for the closeknit village of Nundle.

“The publican was over the moon that I was going to keep it open,” he laughed.

“It keeps the guys in the mountains working, Forestry’s there keeping these guys (at the mill) working, the supply of timber throughout keeps the money rolling into here and that’s an economy that Nundle can’t do without, so it’s important that we keep this going.”

Mr Simmons said it was a lack of innovation that left the mill in such dire straits.

“It’s been run the same way for the past 50 years. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” he said.

“You’ve just got to try and be different and I believe I can. So I’ll give it a go and I’m pretty sure I can turn it around.”

BIG PLANS: Wayne Simmons at the Nundle Saw Mill. His intervention has saved seven local jobs and given the historic mill a bright future with plans to export to China and Korea. Photo: Barry Smith 040613BSA08

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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