The town of Tapanui in west Otago was a big sawmilling area in the late 1800s, turning logs from the nearby native forests into timber for housing and farm buildings.
The first sawmill to be built there was powered by a huge water wheel, and the second by a steam engine.
As more farms were established nearby and the goldrushes began there was increasing demand for timber and even more mills were built.
By the end of the nineteenth century the accessible areas of native forests were becoming depleted. In 1897 a forestry nursery at Tapanui was set up to trial different exotic species to see which would grow quickly in New Zealand conditions to provide an alternative to our slower growing native species.
As in other parts of the country, Radiata pine came out on top, and plantations were established all around the Tapanui area.
By 1950 large volumes of trees were ready for harvesting and a huge sawmill was established at Conical Hill to process plantation timbers. It was the largest in the South Island at the time and it operated until 2009.