Volume 5

Sawmilling at Thames and the Coromandel

Bob Young


Thames was declared a Goldfield in August 1867 with a population of 5,000 quickly rising to 18,000 by the end of 1868. Large amounts of timber were required for mining, batteries, water races, commercial buildings and houses. Timber was used for everything in those days. In the eastern ranges about Thames, large forests of Kauri and other species grew and several sawmills were built to supply this market as well as exports.

Earlier millers were L.C. McCaskill who had bought property at Hikutaia in 1839 and spent $6000 on a sawmill. By 1845 he was reported to be cutting 2000 board-feet per day. Also Mortimer Baines and Drummond Hay milled at Hikutaia from 1853 - 1857. Production from both these mills was small.

Thought to be Stone's Mill (later Twentyman's), Shortland approximately 1900. Photographer: Foy Bros, Thames, from the Cunningham Collection, The Treasury


In 1869 Messrs Russel, Stone and Wilson bought cutting rights in the Waiwhakaurunga blocks from the Maori owners. The timber grant, over 12,000 acres, was to expire August 22 1971. The Crown later acquired the freehold of this block but not the timber.

C.J. Stone built a large sawmill with a ship-building yard attached at Shortland, corner of Grey and Pollen streets in 1871. Stone had bought out the interests of Russel and Wilson and traded as the Shortland Sawmill Co. The area opposite and over the railway line, now the Glass Company, was used to stack sawn timber and launch boats. Logs were driven by water from dams up the Kauaeranga to booms at Parawai and floated up the Hape Stream to the sawmill. Sawn timber was sent by punt up river to Kopu wharf for loading into sailing vessels for export. Production was 12,000 board-feet per day, employing 25 mill hands. C.J. Stone died in April 1885.


Built by George Holdship in 1868 at the beach-end of Cochrane where there was a wharf. They purchased the timber on the Otuturu Block north of Thames, near Tapu in 1870. Adjacent to the sawmill was a planing mill and sash and door factory. The Auckland Timber Co Ltd formed in 1877 and took over all George Holdship's interests in timber. George Holdship was one of the prime-movers in setting up The Kauri Timber Co Ltd. I have not been able to ascertain when the mill closed.


In June 1888 the mill and cutting rights up the Kauaeranga Valley were sold by the Shortland Sawmill Co to The Kauri Timber Co Ltd. This company was formed to buy out several sawmills in New Zealand cutting Kauri. The Thames branch of The Kauri Timber Co appears to have closed by 1902 and operated a retail yard lease to Robert Blair and Stone's Shipbuilding shed and veneer shed. In December 1908, The Kauri Timber Company invited tenders for the purchase of the Shortland sawmill as it stood, including a portion of the lease up to January 1, 1915, or for removal. There were no takers, and it was finally sold to the Auckland Rimu Timber Co Ltd and removed to Ngongotaha in 1912.

The last big removal of timber from the Kauraeranga Valley started with The Kauri Timber Company building a tramway up the valley from the Parawai booms in 1915 rather than drive the timber down. Later they extended the line to a dump at the Waihou river below Kopu. All bush operations were finished by January 1928, and the line up-lifted. Over 40 million feet was carried over this line.

Henry Harold Hoyle came from Coromandel where he split mining timber, and set up a sawmill between Shortland wharf and the railway station. Production started August 2, 1915 with cutting stray logs from the banks of the Kauaeranga River.
Thames Star 2 August 1915:

With commendable enterprise, Mr H.H. Hoyle has established a timber mill at Shortland, where kauri, rimu and mining timber of all kinds is available. Also on hand is timber suitable for fencing and droppers and to this particular line the attention of farmers is drawn...

A year later, on August 6th, 1916, while trying to free a chip from the breast bench saw, he severed his right arm. Undaunted he formed the firm of Hoyle Ltd to mill Crown bush at Omahu, supplying the Railways Department in 1920. The Shortland Mill was shifted to Banks Street where Stuart Moore Motors are about 1930. He was unfortunately killed by accident in April 1933, by a strange coincidence by the same saw that caused him to lose his right arm previously.

His son Trevor and Dan Clark ran the mill until 1944 when it was sold to Roy Donkin. Donkin modified the machinery and sold to Twentyman Bros in 1957. Twentyman Bros ceased milling in March 1975, and the mill was demolished. This was the last mill to operate in the Thames Borough. Sources:

  • The Thames Star, August 6th, 1916; April 18, 1933.
  • The Hauraki Herald, December 23, 1989.

BUCHANAN BROS., Tararu Creek Road

Buchanan Brothers erected a small mill on Mr J. Judd's section up the Tararu Creek Road early in 1936. The plant consisted of a twin circular saw breaking down, breast bench and docking saw driven by a Pelton wheel. When milling finished in 1938, they shifted to Woodlands Road, Waihi.
Source: Forestry Service file 26/1 February 19, 1936.

SCHICK & LESLIE, Kauaeranga Valley

Portable type of mill which operated in the Kauraeranga Valley from 1961 to 1967 cutting some native but mainly pines.


First registered in 1947 and was still there in 1989. Operates occasionally. This was a small private mill cutting their own farm timber.

GEORGE EGAN, Kirikiri Valley

Built at the end of the then Kirikiri Valley Road in 1945. This road has since become the Kopu-Hikuai SH 25A. Machinery consisted of a vertical breaking down bench, breast bench and goose saw driven by a D4 Catapillar tractor. Logs pulled by another D4 tractor from the adjoining bush that had previously been worked for Kauri by Leyland and O'Brien Timber Company of Auckland. A small production of native timber was trucked to Kopu Railway station and on to the Auckland market. Milling ceased in 1962. The site today is in pasture with few remnants of the mill. Source: Mr Owen Egan, Turua.


Built by Fletcher Timber Company Ltd in July 1976 to mill pines from Tairua State Forest. Sold to Carter Holt Harvey Ltd in November 1978.


Built by John Gibbons in 1869 on the bank of the Kirikiri Stream somewhere between the railway line and the Waihou river. Here there was a wharf a quarter of a mile long into deep water for shipment of sawn timber. Logs, mostly white pine, were floated down the Waihou river to mill booms.

There were several owners and lessees of the mill. J.S. McFarlane owned it in the late 1870s after being idle for two years. It was sold to Mr E. Carr in 1879, Gibbons being the mill manager. Carr & Co erected a new mill at Te Aroha in 1882.

John Read in 1883 was cutting two million feet a year. He was bringing kahikatea from the banks of the Waihou River and kauri logs from Koputauaki near Coromandel. By June 1887, it was in the hands of Blair and Gillespie who sold to The Kauri Timber Co. Ltd in June 1888. Thomas Gibbons was Manager. The Kauri Timber Company leased to James Darrow for five years, and Mortonsen for a short while. A report in 1899 said that Kirikiri mill was built of kahikatea and that is was 'rotton and a perfect wreck'.

James McAndrew purchased the mill in July 1899 and re-erected it at the Junction at Paeroa. He commenced cutting November 15th, 1899. The mill site on the Hurumoimoi Block was sold by auction May 8th 1890 to Mr John Hudson, The Kauri Timber Company branch manager.


Built by R.P. Gibbons, son of John Gibbons at Kopu, it was situated south of the Government wharf and backed on to the railway line. The foundation stone was laid September 1892. Bush was secured fronting the Waihou river and estimated at over 50 million feet of kahikatea.

By 1898, it was found necessary to work two shifts to cope with the demand for white pine for butter boxes. Large quantities were shipped directly to Australia. Fire destroyed the mill on January 23, 1902. Only the stocks of sawn timber were saved. It was immediatel rebuilt, opening again in April.

Robert Pearce Gibbons and his son Angus Newton Gibbons formed the firm Robert P. Gibbons Ltd on June 6th, 1906. They had sawmills at Kaipara, Hokianga, Hikurangi and Kopu. In 1911, Fisher Bros were supplying logs from Waitakaruru. Robert Pearce Gibbons died in Auckland June 25th 1906. The company wound up October 22nd, 1940.

1916 advertisement in the Thames Star:

Robt P. Gibbons Ltd., Timber & Hardware Merchants and Launch owners have stocks of 2 million feet of Rimu, Matai, Kauri, Totara and Kahikatea in stock and could deliver by own launch 'Rimu' to any places on rivers or coast.


  • Advertiser: 28 Sept 1892, 30 Sept 1898.
  • Thames Star: 23 Jan 1902, 1 Feb 1911, 12 Jan 1916.
View of the Frontage at Gibbon's Sawmill, Kopu, Thames River, Auckland. From Auckland Weekly News, 31 October 2001. (Photographer: Alf Sherlock, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19011031-4-1)
The staff of workman at Gibbon's Sawmill, Kopu, Thames River, Auckland. From Auckland Weekly News, 31 October 1901.
(Photographer: Alf Sherlock, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19011031-4-2)


Operated from 1865 to 1878, this sawmill was owned by Coombes & Daldy, and in 1867 was on the river-flat near the mouth of the Waikawau Stream. Mr Kelly was the mill manager employing 14 men. It was closed and removed in April 1878. Kelly, Coombes & Daldy also had a mill at Tairua.
Daily Southern Cross:

Waikawau is a valley of some four miles in extent, through which a sluggish stream flows for about one mile to the sea, above which it becomes more rapid. On both sides the country can only be compared to a large garden; peaches, grapes and figs in profusion; the up-country and the ranges on each side of the valley bear some of the finest kauri trees in the island. A saw mill is being erected near the mouth of the creek, which is expected to be completed and in full working order in about three months from this date, which will give employment in the valley of the Waikawau to several families.

LANG & FREETH, Maratoto Road Hikutaia



Mr Linsay McGauchran, Proprietor. A small permanent portable plant consisting of a Gatman single circular saw breaking down bench and a Marsh breast bench powered by a wheel tractor. Cutting Radiata logs from Tairua State Forest on a cash and carry basis. Production small. Built in 1982 and when visited in 1991, it was idle. Also on site was a post-peeling plant.



Built by Mr C. Christensen, Managing Director, Mataora Timber Company Ltd on Papamaire Island alongside SH26 in 1960 to mill pines from Tairua State Forest. The mill was previously operated at Murupara by Fletcher Timber Co. It was opened on 11 August 1960, the plant consisting of a Pacific carriage and breast bench powered by electric motors. The sawn timber was transported to the company's Waihi yard for treatment. Fire totally destroyed the mill on Wednesday morning 20 January 1965, and it was not rebuilt.
Waihi Gazette: August 8th, 1960 and January 21st, 1965.


Built by P. Williamson to mill his own pine plantation on the Main Road, Whangamata in 1946. The plant consisted of a Corley Pacific single saw breaking down bench and breast bench powered by a diesel motor. It was taken over by R. Dittmer & Son September 1948. R. Dittmer senior was killed on the job by a falling tree, and the business then transferred to R. & T.C. Dittmer in April 1950. They sold to A.R. Shewry Timber Co Ltd in December 1950. They operated until 1958 when it reverted back to the original owners P & M Williamson.

Baker Bros (R.E. & D.J.) of Katikati bought the mill in 1967, and it closed in 1968 when the plantation was cut out. The Bakers operated a retail timber-yard on the site, later supplying it from their Katikati sawmill.


WAIHI GOLDMINING Co LTD., Kenny Street/Barry Road.

The Waihi Gold Mining Co Ltd operated a sawmill in Kenny Street, Waihi Borough for many years, cutting timber for their mines and buildings. A tramline led to the mill from the bush east of Waihi, and also connected to the rail system at Waikino. Mr Chas. Hughes helped dismantle the mill in 1936. Jack Henry was the mill manager. It had a steam-powered twin saw breaking down and breast bench.

WAIHI JUNCTION GOLDMINING Co. Ltd., Roycroft Street, Waihi

The Waihi Junction Goldmining Co Ltd shifted the Kauri Freehold Gold Estates' 40 stamp battery from Opitonui to Waihi in 1904. They operated a sawmill cutting timber for their own mine requirements in Roycroft Street East End. When they amalgamated with Waihi Gold Mining Co in 1926, the mill was either leased or sold to Birch, Smith and Beilby who advertised timber for sale in the Waihi Telegraph in November 1927. It was an electric-powered twin circular breaking down and breast bench. Mr Ken Sutton, Barry Road, Waihi whose father hired the mill to cut timber thinks it closed about 1930. The concrete foundations are said to be still there in 1990.

Details of Mining Company Sawmills and others about are sketchy but can be seen advertising in the Waihi newspaper. The Waihi Goldmining Co. had a sawmill at their Victoria Battery, Waikino. It was powered by a 16 hp Marshall and Son No 16804 portable steam engine This is now at the Paeroa Maritime Park awaiting restoration.


1922 - 1927
For details see Ohinemuri Regional History Journal No 20, June 1976, p13, Pioneering at 'The Wires' by Arthur Sutton.

BUCHANAN BROS., Cnr Russel and Walker Street, Waihi

Buchanans shifted their Woodlands Rd Sawmill to Waihi in early 1943. After operating for only about six months, the steam-driven plant employing twelve men cutting native and pines was burnt down on August 17th, 1943. There was no insurance. George Buchanan later managed Christensen's Mataora Timber Co sawmill.
Source: Waihi Telegraph, August 18th, 1943.

MATAORA TIMBER CO. LTD., Consols Street, Waihi.

In 1924, Otto Bjerring erected a small water-powered sawmill on his Mataura farm cutting native timber from his own bush. Christennsen worked in it. It only lasted a few years. Later C. Christensen and Ralph Hughes built a mill at Whiritoa operating 1947 and 1950 when Christensen formed the Mataora Timber Co Ltd and shifted to Consols street, Waihi. It was sold to Smith & Smith Ltd Feb 1st, 1974 and destroyed by fire March 22nd, 1974. It was then rebuilt with bandsaws, later closed and removed.


Milling near the Waitete stream 1893 - 1897. It was reported in the Ohinemuri Gazette November 3, 1897 that the Waitete Creek mill had cut out and he was installing a larger outfit from Ngaruawhia at Waimata, two miles from Waihi.


EVANS J. H., Thames Road, Paeroa

James Harvey Evans in 1925 built the mill which was driven by a 16 hp Marshall portable steam engine No 16804 powering a twin circular breaking down and breast bench, cutting both native and exotic timbers.

Fire destroyed the mill February 2nd, 1938 and was rebuilt only to be burnt down again January 20th, 1950. Once again it was rebuilt on the same site. Harvey Evans died July 1956, and the business was carried on by his Estate, selling out to Paeroa Sawmills (Ivan Gerrard) in 1964. Paeroa Sawmills continued cutting until 1976 when the mill was demolished. The old Marshall steam engine is at the Paeroa Maritime Museum. The site is now a housing subdivision.
Sources:Ohinemuri Gazette February 2nd, 1938, Jan 20th, 1950, Ivan Gerrard.


Built originally on Morrison's Farm at Komata Reefs and shifted to Station Road, Paeroa in 1922. The plant consisted of a 7 foot vertical breaking down bench, breast bench and a 12 inch x 4 1/2 inch Fay & Co planar driven by an 8 hp Luke boiler, coupled with a Tangye engine. In March 1924, the company of R. Phillips & Co Ltd formed to take over the business but was in liquidation August 19th 1924 and wound up. After unsuccessfully selling the plant by tender by the liquidator, it was sold by auction September 1924.
Source:Hauraki Plains Gazette Jan 21st, 1921; Feb 8, March 22, Aug 22, Aug 23, 1922; March 31, 1924, September 1924.

GLEADOW'S MILL, Taylors Avenue, Paeroa.

Erected in Taylors Avenue in 1946 by Charles Gleadow (a builder) in order to get timber supplies during a post-war shortage. Following the death of Mr Gleadow early in 1954, the mill was run by his Estate until February 14th, 1955 when it was put up for sale. In March 1955 Messrs N.J. Neil & F.M. Patterson trading as Paeroa Sawmillers leased the mill cutting up to 1957. It reopened again in 1960, cutting on contract for Christensen, Waihi and closed the same year and was demolished. The site now is a Benchmark timber and hardware yard.


There were several mills near the junction of the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers. They cut mainly kahikatea growing near the river banks and kauri floated up from the Hikutaia district.

Mr James McAndrew purchased the old Kauri Timber Co Kirikiri mill and re-erected it at the Junction commencing November 15th, 1899.

Messrs Forrest & Clark, Timber Merchants purchased the McAndrew mill in December 1901 and sold it along with the soda spring to Fewell & Brinkler in December 1908. An advertisement in the Hauraki Plains Gazette November 4th, 1910 reads: Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Co Ltd are cash buyers of Kahikatea, Kauri and Rimu logs in any quantity

It is not known if they cut any or when the mill was closed. The site is now under the Waihou embankment.
Source:Haurkai Plains Gazette. Paeroa. Jan 20, 1897; July 30th, 1898; July 19, Nov 18, 1899; Dec 9, 1901; May 27, 1903; Dec 23, 1908.


Saw mill, Mercury Bay: A drawing by William Eastwood. Dated 22 January 1876. Auckland Art Gallery Collection.


This company was incorporated May 18, 1863 with a capital of £4,500. While delivering the first load of sawn timber to Auckland on the schooner RAPID, one of the proprieters, Neil McFADGEN was drowned near Great Barrier Island (See Daily Southern Cross March, 29th 1864). By 1870, the company was in financial difficulty and wound up on November 11th, 1870.


Incorporated August 9th, 1870 with a capital of £4800, taking over The Auckland Sawmill Co property on the south side of the Whitianga River near the stone steps. Logs were floated down from up-river. After nearly 20 years operating, the foundations were rotton and with a shortage of stacking room, the Company was wound up March 1883.


Incorporated on March 7th, 1882 with a capital of £30,000, it was formed to take over the assets of the former Mercury Bay Sawmill Co. A new sawmill was built on the north side of the river where the town of Whitianga is, opening Saturday March 31st, 1883. A full description of the mill and opening was reported in the Auckland Weekly News April 7th, 1883. The Mercury Bay Sawmill Company Annual meeting for March 1885 is reported in The Auckland Star: 28 March 1885.

As well being supplied by logs from up-river, the company built a tramway from the mill to Page's bush in the Moewai block north of the township. It opened on March 9th, 1888. A Bagnall locomotive ran on this line. Source: Coromandel County News March 9th, 1888.

The company sold out to The Kauri Timber Co Ltd in June 1888. Fire destroyed the mill on February 6th, 1904. It was rebuilt and re-opened July 6th, 1904. Finally closed on August 25th 1922. A description of The Kauri Timber Company is found in 'The Story of the Kauri' by A.H. & A.W. Reed 1953, pages 246 - 248.

J. J. Jackson, former NZ Manager of The Kauri Timber Company, in his notes on the Company says the Mercury Bay mill produced 25 million board feet for The Kauri Timber Company, about 6 million feet per annum. The site is now the Mercury Bay Dairy Factory, occupied by the Whitianga Museum.

Auckland's Kauri Timber Industry: Mercury Bay Sawmill. From Auckland Weekly News, 14 September 1905
Photographer: H. Winkelmann, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050914-15-4

SCHAPPE & ANSENNE, known as the Upper Mill.

Built by the partners in 1863 about 8 km upstream on the east bank of the Waiwawa River. Mr Archibald Smith was the manager for the life of the mill. Fire destroyed the mill on March 3rd 1867, and it was immediately rebuilt. It was sold to The Kauri Timber Co Ltd in June 1888. Next month, July 7th 1888, it was again burnt down and not rebuilt. The fire is thought to have started near the dealframe.

Schappe & Ansenne built a 6 km steel rail tramline up the Whenuakite Valley in 1884, using a Manning & Wardell locomotive. The Kauri Timber Company closed this line in 1901, and the rails and locomotive went to Whangapoua. The reason for the tramlines was that often the mills would be short of logs during dry spells when there was not enough water to drive logs on the river.


  • Mahakirau Sawmill: Christensen 1921 - 1934, 309 Highway
  • Johanovich, Paul: 1929 - 1941, Whenuakite
  • Mercury Bay Timber Co: McIlwraith, Norton & Trouhear, 1920-21.
  • Boric M.A., Ashton & Co, 1943 - 1946, Hit Water Beach Rd.
  • Ashton & Co: Clarke 1948 - 1955, Whenuakite.
  • Lowe, C.: 1932 - 1963, Mill Rd, Whitianga



The Coromandel News, Feb 8th, 1889:

THE TIKI SAWMILLS: Messrs Fraser Bros, sawmill at the Tiki, about 3 miles from the town of Coromandel, is one of the few kauri timber sawmills that were not acquired by The Kauri Timber Co. The plant comprises a break down and circular saw; the motive power is water; the water-wheel is a large undershot one, twenty seven feet in diameter and seven feet at the breast, and the force is equal to 20 horsepower.

The water for driving the machinery is brought a considerable distance from the Pukewau Creek through a tunnel in the spur to the dam situated a short distance above the mill.

The mill is capable of cutting timber up to 47 feet length, and 20,000 board-feet could be cut per week. The sawdust from both the breaking down and circular saws is carried away by water. Mr John Fraser is mill manager.
Fraser's Sawmill, Tiki, Coromandel: The old mill is a well-known landmark of the Tiki and has just been closed down after working for upwards of 40 years.
From Auckland Weekly News, 5 October 1905.
(Photographer: A. Richards, Sir George Grey Special Collections,
Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19051005-7-5)


In 1865, Robert Cashmore purchased the timber on the Tangiaronui block (1) and began erecting a sawmill when a dispute arose with the Maori owners and operations were suspended.

Charles J.W. Kensington appears to have taken the mill over but went bankrupt in December 1866 (2). Kensington continued to live in the district and died there in 1877. By 1875 (3) Pollard & Co are shown as owners, then George Holdship who formed The Auckland Timber Co. Ltd in December 1877. G. Holdship were agents for the mill in 1874. The Auckland Timber Co Ltd sold out to The Kauri Timber Co. Ltd in June 1884 (4) when The Auckland Timber Co were wound up. The Kauri Timber Company closed the mill in 1889 and machinery was removed in 1890 (5). The machinery consisted of a vertical breaking down bench and circular saw breast bench driven by a 20 hp steam engine. They cut 50000 feet per week, employing fifty men in the mill and bush (6). The mill site and adjoining lands were offered for sale by tender in May 1902.

  • Daily Southern Cross: August 10th and 28th, 1865
  • Daily Southern Cross December 13th 15th and 17th, 1866
  • A.J.H.R. 1875 C-3
  • Bretts Auckland Almanac 1879 p127


An old undated photo of the sawmill at Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel.
Photo courtesy of Jill Kemp.

Operated from 1862 to 1891.

The mill was built by Alexander McGregor, Frederick Atkinson and Charles Broadbent who were trading as Alexander McGregor " Company in 1862.

The site is close to deep water on the North side of the Bay. The partnership of McGregor & Co was dissolved on February 22, 1863, and the business was carried on by Messrs McGregor and Atkinson. In 1864, Messrs Cruickshank, Smart & Co managed the mill which cut about 2 million feet annually.

The Auckland Timber Co. Ltd was formed in late 1877 by George Holder. Captain Daldy and Messrs A.R. Watson, William Errington and Robert Bleazard with capital of £120,000 then took over. The Auckland Timber Company was purchased by the Kauri Timber Co on June 12th, 1888.

Milling ceased in early 1891, and after working out the remaining bush, the tramway up the Mataiterangi Creek was removed along with the mill machinery. The Kauri Timber Company sold the lease of the mill site which expired on 31 December 1898 to Messrs J. J. Craig & Co in August 1896. This finished The Kauri Timber Company operations at Kennedy Bay.

Smyth Bros worked the remaining Kauri from the Southern waters from about 1897 by dams, steam haulers and tramway. The logs were exported to Auckland and overseas.

  • Daily Southern Cross: Feb 22nd, 1863; May 13th, 1868
  • Auckland Weekly News: 4 June, 1898; March 1st, 1917.
The Beach at Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel: Kauri logs ready for shipment to the mill.
From Auckland Weekly News, 4 June 1898. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980604-3-1

Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel: Showing a bush railway hauling kauri logs on Messrs Smyth Brother's Tramway
From Auckland Weekly News, 4 June 1898.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980604-3-3

Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel: cleared bush
From Auckland Weekly News, 4 June 1898.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980604-3-4

Kennedy's Bay, Coromandel: A fine bullock team hauling timber.
From Auckland Weekly News, 4 June 1898.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980604-3-2


Cabbage Bay was renamed Colville in 1921. Sawmilling appears to have started in 1860-61. A cutter brought 2000 ft of timber and four passengers to Auckland on 18 April 1861. There is a sketch of the bay in 1861 by S. Percey Smith, surveyor showing the sawmill. John Gibbons is said to have built the sawmill, but whether it was his or Heron, David & Co is not sure. The partners of Heron, David & Co were James Heron, John Andrews, E. J. Mathews and Adolph David.

By January 1867, the partnership dissolved, and the sawmill with a capacity of 50,000 feet per week and in full working order, was advertised for sale. Mr E. L. Mathews called tenders for felling and cutting timber at Cabbage Bay on March 2nd, 1868.

From here on, information is vague. Elon Jeffcoat (or his brother-in-law Robert Cashmore) are mentioned as owners in 1874.

Auckland Weekly News, 31 October 1891:

Colville Bay: Near the mouth of the creek and on the south side of the bay are a number of buildings; conspicuous among them is Messrs Cashmore Bros sawmill. This is built near the site of the old Cabbage Bay mill which burnt down a few years ago, and which at one time carried on an extensive trade in kauri timber. This mill was in existence for about 25 years, and in its early days was owned by Mr Gibbons of the Thames, but at the time of its destruction, it belonged to Mr Jeffcoat. The Cashmore Bros mill is not built on such an extensive scale as the old mill

The Cashmore Brothers were Benjamin, Elon and William, sons of Robert Cashmore. Cashmore Bros, in the early part of the twentieth century logged various bushes on both sides of the Peninsula and also had a sawmill at Opitonui about 1904.

From the Kauri Timber Company Minute Book of May 26th, 1899:'Cashmore Bros have recently started a mill at Cox's Creek, near Auckland'

Therefore milling at Colville probably ceased in 1898, with the machinery moved to Auckland.


1862 - 1934. Nancy Swawbrick has written a very detailed sawmill history in connection with the Opera Point district reserve (Sept 1986)


Built a steam-driven mill by the junction of the road to the Denize property near the Pungapunga River commencing May 1912. It cut timber left in heads from old Kauri Timber Company workings in the Pungapunga blocks (Maori-owned). Milling ceased in September 1922, and the plant removed by sea to the Waikato District.
Source: Coromandel County News: May 17th, 1912; Sept 29th, 1922.


They salvaged timber left from previous operations in the Waitekuri and Opitonui blocks. Logging started in 1922 and finished (with some stoppages) about 1934. Logs were pulled by a steam-hauler and transported by lorry to the Whangapoua harbour where they were towed to Casey's mill (Boxes Ltd) Beaumont Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland. Tom Simpson, author of Kauri to Radiata, Hodder & Staughton, 1973 was the bush manager. Later the NZ Forest Service planted pines on worked-over kauri forests in the Whangapoua watershed.


In connection with their battery at Opitonui, they built a sawmill above the battery cutting mining timber in 1898. When the mine closed, it passed to Cashmore Bros of Auckland who ran it for a few years and transported the sawn timber by tramway to the Whangapoua wharf.

Kauri Timber Company's mill on Kauri Freehold Gold Estate's Property at Whangapoua
From Auckland Weekly News, 9 July 1898. (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18980709-2-1)

The Kauri Freehold Gold Estates Company's sawmill, Opitonui, looking towards the township.
From Auckland Weekly News, 12 Dec 1901.
(Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19011212-9-4)

Auckland's Kauri Timber Industry: Messrs Cashmore Bros branch mill at Opionui, Coromandel.
From Auckland Weekly News, 6 October 1904.
(Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19041006-4-1)



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