Loggers grapple with new ways
Award-winning logging techniques used by Marlborough Harvesting balance environmental, safety and production priorities, says Nelson Forests Marlborough team leader, John Horton.
A Marlborough Environment Awards field day last month visited a 40-hectare forest block where Marlborough Harvesting is logging steep slopes running down to a bush-edged stream in the headwaters of the Onamalutu River, on contract to Nelson Forests.
Twenty-five people watched as staff lifted logs above slopes using a remote-controlled grapple on a motorised carriage, avoiding damage to slopes and streams.
Marlborough Harvesting owner Richard Marden, who lives in the Onamalutu Valley, said he was keenly aware of the effects of forest harvesting on people living below if standards slipped.
Logs slid down slopes into streams, forming dams which burst, flooding the land below, in the Marlborough floods of December 2010.
Rob Schuckard, of French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds, was excited that the technology could require less roading and smaller log collection sites than traditional techniques.
This was what he had been waiting for since planting trees in 1992, said the 2005 forestry and supreme award winner.
Mr Marden said: "The money in my back pocket for this job was not that flash, but the result was.
"This was the most economic way to get the result we did."
When the company entered the award, it was using an Acme motorised carriage to lift, rather than drag logs up the steep slope. This avoided damage to soils, the stream and a strip of ecologically significant native bush.
When judges visited a few months later, the company had bought the remote-controlled Falcon Forestry Claw, lifting standards even higher.
The carriage had a camera attached, which sent images to a worker sitting in a hauler machine above, who could stop, open, shut and rotate the grapple at the touch of a button, Mr Marden said.
This did away with the hazardous job of hooking logs onto wire cables using chains, then releasing them at the top.
GPS technology meant logs could be accurately steered around environmental or archaeological sites.
A challenge of this job was the "chaos" left behind by wind throw, Mr Marden said.
His company removed not only fallen trees, but also root balls, because water could build up behind these if they were left behind, causing soil to become unstable.
Mr Horton said the ultimate aim was to have no men on the hill during harvesting.
Marlborough and Nelson companies were especially talented at designing and building innovative automated logging machinery, probably because steep terrain made the job especially difficult.
DC Repairs in Nelson designed and built the Falcon Claw and Kelly Logging & Trinder Engineering, of Nelson, developed the ClimbMAX steep harvester, capable of felling and stacking trees on up to 45-degree slopes.
Council environment committee chairman Peter Jerram said the last time he saw the area, "it was a shambles" after the 2010 floods.
If the steep, erosion-prone slopes were to sustain more harvesting cycles, exemplary management and harvesting were required.
The Marlborough Express