NZ$29.3m wood harvesting programme launched

Friday 15 Mar 2019

Boosting forest productivity, technology, safety and skills and reducing environmental impacts are at the heart of a new programme announced yesterday. Te Mahi Ngahere I te Ao Hurihuri – Forestry Work in the Modern Age is a new NZ$29.3 million, 7-year collaboration between Forest Growers Research Ltd (FGR), a consortium of forest owners and forestry machinery manufacturers and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

It has its sights on developing a new in-forest harvesting and log sorting system specific to New Zealand’s forests, using automation and robotics – a first for New Zealand. “Technology is increasingly important in improving safety, skills and productivity, and protecting the environment,” says FGR Chief Executive Russell Dale.

“Our industry relies on people, but labour shortages and rising costs in harvesting forests and transporting logs are holding the industry back and reducing our ability to grow. Our new programme with MPI aims to automate the tasks after felling that have traditionally required substantial labour. These include log branding, log sorting and scaling. We also want boost the efficiency of forestry operations, take people away from hazardous harvesting roles, and give them the skills they need for the future.”

MPI’s Director Investment Programmes Steve Penno says at the heart of the new programme is creating sustainable benefits for New Zealand, by delivering economic, environmental and social outcomes. “This new programme brings key industry players together to tackle common challenges facing our forestry industry, and will deliver solutions that keep people safe, and boost their skills and capability,” says Mr Penno. “It’ll also help to bridge the gap between demand for our logs and the shortfall in labour. All of these are essential for a thriving forestry industry.

FGR’s Harvesting Programme Manager Keith Raymond says as harvesting shifts to forests planted in the 90s and onto steeper land in smaller, more isolated holdings, the industry faces the challenge of reducing costs and improving efficiency to maintain our international competitiveness.

“Current technology and processes mean logs are handled between eight and twelve times before they’re loaded for export. This adds time and cost. Unless we make a fundamental shift in our forest harvesting operations, New Zealand may have difficulty meeting demand and remaining competitive. We believe our programme can deliver this shift. It will also help to maintain good momentum in forestry innovations and keep New Zealand at the forefront.”

MPI and the industry partners are finalising the contract for the programme, which is expected to deliver operational cost savings across industry of NZ$27.5 million per annum by 2025, increasing to NZ$76.8 million per annum by 2031.

Further details and plans around the planned seven year programme will be outlined as part of the HarvestTECH 2019 event being run in Rotorua, New Zealand for harvesting contractors and forest managers on 26-27 June.

Source: MPI

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