Remote tree felling advised for safety
The forest industry is heading towards remote felling of trees on steep slopes to improve safety and reduce costs, a forestry research expert says.
Future Forests Research chief executive Russell Dale was speaking to 130 industry workers at a conference in Blenheim this week.
The three-day forum at the Marlborough Convention Centre ended yesterday.
Plans to look at harvesting on steep land were cancelled because of high winds but a conference field trip to the Kaituna saw mill, near Renwick, a eucalypt trial in Waikakaho Valley, near Tuamarina, and a seed orchard at Wairau Bar went ahead.
Mr Dale said the trend was towards remotely-controlled felling and removal of trees, replacing men with chainsaws.
Some remote harvesting equipment, such as the Falcon Claw motorised carriage and ClimbMAX, which takes trees off 45 degree or steeper slopes, were already being used to improve safety and productivity while reducing costs. Other technology was still being developed, he said.
A Canterbury University research team had designed a robotic logging system without wheels that had "some intelligence built into it", he said.
One arm would clamp onto a tree and the other would cut it.
Environmental research included a method for assessing erosion risk more accurately than the land use classification system which had been used for many years. The light detection and ranging system combined information on terrain, soil and rainfall.
About 90 per cent of New Zealand commercial forests were radiata pine, Mr Dale said.
One viable alternative for the South Island was douglas fir which had been grown for 70-80 years, withstanding wind and snow.
Breeding programmes were developing douglas fir with stiffness qualities, important in structural uses, he said.
Future Forests Research is a partnership between the New Zealand forest industry and forest research organisation, Scion, aimed at improving international competitiveness while providing economic and social benefits.
- The Marlborough Express