THE NF McDonnell & Sons sawmilling business has been in existence since 1944 and is now into its fourth generation of family involvement.
During these many years, the company has been involved in log hauling, harvesting, road transport, farming and sawmilling and today, is one of the major players in the softwood milling industry in the South East of South Australia.
The business was founded by Newman McDonnell and his two sons Don and Les following the devastating softwood forest fires at Mount Burr in 1943. Through this tragic event, Newman, Don and Les took a team of workers from their home in Cobden Victoria to begin milling the burnt timber for the Southern Trading Company which had contracts with the Woods and Forest Department (now OneFortyOne).
They arrived in 1944 and their “Bush” mill was one of many they established in the coming decade. The move was a success and later, as the business grew other mills were established at Millicent, then Kalangadoo and later along the Hundred Line Road near the state border, east of Tarpeena.
Following the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983 McDonnells became involved in a joint venture with Ken Carter of Carter Holt to export wood chips to Japan. It involved using the burnt timber from Ash Wednesday and McDonnells became the first Australian timber operation to export wood chips to Asia. Today that business still survives and is an important aspect to the company’s business.
In the coming years Ian gradually began to take more responsibility in the company and along with other family members became an equal partner with Don and Les in 1993.
After Les stepped down in 2007 Ian and his brother Anthony became third generation owners when they bought out their Uncle Don and father Les’ share and other family members.
At the beginning of 2012 our management team created a mill development plan which was based on our goal of modernising our mill into a truly world class processing facility. Stage 1 of this plan was for the redevelopment of our resaw facility, this project represented a $2 million that has given us a significant boost to our operational capacity.
2014 saw a major upgrade of our Primary Breakdown area. At the centre of this was the installation of the HewSaw R250, with its ability to operate at a variety of speeds and specialising in the conversion of small diameter log it has increased overall capacity considerably.
NF McDonnell & Sons was announced as a SafeWorkSA Safety Champion Gold Award Winner for 2019 for their dedication to safety and workplace well being.
The winners of the competition, run by SafeWorkSA for Safe Work Month 2019, were announced in November 2019 with the local timber processor sharing the gold award with Advanced Plastic Recycling based out of Kilburn.
The company becomes the first Green Triangle business to achieve internationally recognised Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) certification.
Global-Mark, a nationally recognised Conformity Assessment Body, audited the timber processor’s operations against the highest global standards and granted the company ISO 45001 OHS Management System, an international level certification for its efficient safety management policy and procedures.
Since 1944, the NF McDonnell & Sons business has grown significantly to be a large employer and at its peak during the falling, harvesting and log hauling days it employed more than 200 people. Today there are about 130 employed at the Suttontown Mill.
NF McDonnell and Sons over the years has built a very strong and loyal customer base with some customers trading with the company for over thirty years. McDonnell’s are well placed in the market to confidently move into the next phase of growing their business for the next generation of family members.
Pictured: Ryan, Ian, Shaun and Harrison McDonnell