Trees and Kiwis

Logging in New Zealand fuels a demand for purpose-built swing machines


A mountainous group of islands in the southwestern Pacific, New Zealand is known for its spectacular scenery. Its rugged mountains, glaciers, and fiords make it a popular tourist destination, as well as the perfect setting for a wildly successful fantasy movies. New Zealand’s citizens are known informally as Kiwis – after the native bird. The melting-pot population includes people of European descent, indigenous Maori, Asians and Polynesians.

Logging was one of New Zealand’s earliest industries during European settlement in the 19th century. The hardwood from native kauri was long and straight, making it perfect for ship masts. However, the native forests were slow growing and began to be exhausted. Beginning in the 19th century, the government started planting exotic forests to address timber shortages. In the 1930s, vast areas were planted with pinus radiata, the largest tract being the 188,000 hectare Kaingaroa Forest – one of the largest plantation forests in the world.

New Zealand consciously developed plantations to protect its depleted native forests, which are now controlled by very strict government legislation. Today, plantations represent 19 percent of the country’s forests, while providing 99 percent of roundwood production. Ninety percent of the country’s harvest comes from radiata pine softwood plantations, which grow in average 30-year cycles, although some companies are trying to streamline this to 25 years.

New Zealand will harvest approximately 28 million tonnes of wood in 2013, and is expected to harvest 30 million or more over the next few years. The forestry export market has seen sustained growth for the last three years, driven primarily by the export of logs to China. Exports are expected to increase further due to strong economic growth and infrastructure development in countries such as China and India, and rebuilding efforts in Japan after the Tsunami.

On the domestic front, the rebuilding of the city of Christchurch is increasing the demand for locally supplied lumber. On February 22, 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake devastated the city – the largest on the South Island, with a population of approximately 350,000.

The increasing price of logs has created a sustained demand for new harvesting machines. As loggers are becoming more safety conscious, the demand for purpose-built swing machines has increased over the traditional standard excavator. In addition, landowners expect loggers to be fully mechanised, including felling on steep slopes, which creates an opportunity for steep-slope mechanical felling.

With increasing demand and mechanisation, the future of the forestry industry in New Zealand is looking bright.

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