Logging industry gather in New Zealand
As anticipated, the two-yearly logging event in New Zealand, HarvestTECH 2017 that ran on 20-21 June 2017 was again a sell-out. It was, without a doubt, the wood harvesting event of the year for Australasia. Like the 2015 event run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA), the 2017 event SOLD out 4-5 weeks before the event ran.
It was the largest gathering yet seen in New Zealand. Around 450 logging contractors, forestry managers, forest owners, harvest planners along with all of the major equipment suppliers to the logging industry in this part of the world met in Rotorua. In addition to having most logging contractors from throughout New Zealand attending, the FIEA event drew in a large contingent of contractors and forest managers from throughout Australia, as well as attracting key equipment suppliers, researchers, forestry companies and international contractors from Europe, the US, Canada, Papua New Guinea and Asia.
Building on steep slope logging focus of 2015
In 2015, the HarvestTECH event focussed on steep slope logging. The number of logging crews working on steeper terrain at the time were seeing exponential growth. The move by forest owners and contractors to increase mechanisation, the desire to increase productivity and the requirement to improve safety had led to significant advances in harvesting practices and equipment being used on steeper country in New Zealand.
Much of the innovation was coming from contractors working together with local engineering companies. HarvestTECH 2015 was able to showcase to the rest of the world, some of the new kiwi logging ingenuity in practice. Since 2015, opportunities to profile logging innovations that were being developed and used on steeper slopes have also been taken outside New Zealand. FIEA was also involved in an International steep slope logging event that ran in Vancouver, Canada in 2016 with over 250 logging contractors from B.C. and other regions from the Pacific North-West attending. Overwhelming demand also led to the event being run on 20-21 April 2017 in Kelso, WA, USA.
Focus and content of HarvestTECH 2017
Two years on, logging steeper terrain was again covered at HarvestTECH 2017. Developments by local engineers, manufacturers and contractors over the last couple of years had indeed been significant. Currently, over 60 winch-assist machines are working on steeper slopes in New Zealand and local manufacturers have sold over 50 of these machines overseas. Construction and use of purpose built tethered and winch assist machines, teleoperation of steep slope logging systems, camera-grapple operations with yarders and prototypes of new felling carriage systems were all covered. The innovation being shown and discussed was world-class.
Steep slope logging though wasn’t the only focus for HarvestTECH 2017. New technologies, machines and operating practices in small woodlot harvesting (particularly around some of the unique challenges being faced harvesting the increasing number of woodlots on steep and more remote sites), harvest planning and advances in the mechanisation and automation of harvesting operations were covered. Since 2009 there has been a three-fold increase in mechanised processing in New Zealand with mechanised felling accounting for over 50 percent of all logging operations.
Another key issue addressed at the conference by a panel of well-known logging contractors and forest management company was skills and training – how to retain the current workforce and attract young, competent people, often willing to work in rural areas into the industry. It’s a major issue currently being faced. It’s anticipated that the increased harvest in New Zealand will require a 25% increase in the workforce (around 100 extra contracting crews and 800 additional workers). In just the next five years, another 500 workers will be required. Now that’s going to be a big challenge!
Those attending HarvestTECH 2017 also got an insight into some truly innovative harvesting operations. From Tasmania, delegates heard about an Australian company that’s using a harvesting head on an excavator working from a moored barge (View video). They’re currently harvesting up to 26 metres under water and extracting high-value specialty hardwood timbers from Tasmania’s waterways. From New Zealand’s West Coast, a company involved in large-scale helicopter extraction of storm damaged timber since April 2014 outlined some of the unique issues around felling, logistics and safety with helicopter log extraction operations.
The practical use of data collected from harvesting operations (recent research shows that mining companies, for example, are utilising less than 1 percent of the data being collected), improving data exchange and communications in more remote locations, eliminating log sorts and landing sizes and international developments in new harvesting equipment were also covered by presenters.
As well as the two-day conference and over 40 displays, two one-day field tours ran for HarvestTECH 2017 delegates.
Forest Growers Research Tour: The tour visited a local logging contractor to demonstrate innovative products and equipment that had been developed by equipment manufacturers in conjunction with FGR and logging contractors.
AB Equipment Harvesting Tour: The second tour visited two logging sites in the Tokoroa region in the central North Island
HarvestTECH 2017 has been the largest gathering of wood harvesting operations in New Zealand seen over the last two years. As the feedback has told us, it’s been a unique opportunity for all logging contractors and key technology and equipment providers to get away from their workplaces, to network together at one place at one time, to learn from some truly innovative operators and suppliers and to make numerous contacts to assist all in their business and future operations.
Keep an eye open for the next event being planned for 2019 – and subscribe to free updates about the event!