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Repurposed .. John Fairweather, the owner of John Fairweather Specialty Timbers, in Sefton, sits on one of the Australian ironbark wharf piles he obtained from the Lyttelton Port Company. The piles were used in Cashin Quay 2, badly damaged by the Canterbury quakes. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

 

By SHELLEY TOPP

Wooden piles used to build Lyttelton’s Cashin Quay 2 wharf are being repurposed for use at Christchurch’s Farmers’ Market development.

The timber will be used for stalls, stair treads and bar leaners at the market on Oxford Terrace.

The Australian ironbark piles became available for recycling after the wharf had to be demolished because of severe damage that occurred during the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.

The piles were obtained from the Lyttelton Port Company by Sefton’s John Fairweather Specialty Timber Solutions.

The firm favours New Zealand-grown hardwoods for the products it makes, but could not pass up the opportunity to acquire the tough, durable Australian wood.

“While we emphasise the use of locally grown eucalypts, we embrace the repurposing of wharf piles which have been in service in Canterbury for a long time,” John Fairweather says.

“The piles have been in salt water for about 50 years and they have lasted very well.

“In fact, when you cut one, the heartwood looks quite fresh and if you tap the end of the log it rings as if it were a freshly cut log.

“The logs are in good condition in part because, when installed, the outside of each log was burnt and then treated with creosote.”

Ironbarks get their name from the normally hard, rough bark on their trunks which stays dead on the trees, rather than peeling off, and is resistant to fire and heat.

The Farmers Market work is a little unusual for John’s company, which generally specialises in making hardwood products, such as solid timber flooring, from eucalyptus trees grown in Canterbury.

It is a common misconception that eucalyptus trees are only good for firewood because they have a tendency to split, John says.

“They do split because of the tension in the log.

“However, careful milling and drying can overcome this problem and this allows us to produce high quality and stable timber.”

Imported hardwoods also make excellent timber, he says. “But bringing them to New Zealand has a large carbon footprint and some overseas hardwoods which are claimed to be sustainably produced are not what they are claimed to be.”