Shaws Iron Test; One quick slash grapple

Shaws Iron Test; One quick slash grapple
     Story & photos: Tim Benseman

You know things are going to get interesting when you are still 20 kilometres from the skid north of Gisborne and the road, halfway up the range, surrounded by grass paddocks for miles, suddenly looks like a hillbilly’s driveway due to cyclone damage. Out the gate steep and narrow and it’s got a twist in it. Surely log trucks or even regular trucks would fall off the side of this trail? Maps app says it’s a public road.

We have just driven past big warning signs announcing major risks ahead. I guess this is what they mean. The road gets even narrower, steeper and more winding. We check the map again because surely this is actually someone’s driveway but no, still a road.

A few cattle stops later, some sheep scuttle out of the way and West Ho Forest spreads out before us. At 1800 hectares this used to be a sheep and cattle station inland from Tolaga Bay, which has had a few issues with woody debris.

We meet up with Tom Filmer and Tom Simpson from DC Equipment and Bill Wheeler who is hosting us today, from Ernslaw One. 

Bill grew up in Kaitaia and says there were really only two options there, farming or forestry. He completed his forestry degree in the late eighties, so has had a bit over 30 years in forestry and has been with Ernslaw since 2009, having worked for Ngati Porou Forests prior, so has plenty of local experience.

Bill, who was Regional Manager, is now focussing solely on project managing the cyclone cleanup.  And in his arsenal of equipment is the deployment of the Falcon Slash Grapple Rake SG1730 which bolts on to Ensign’s 1730 grapple in under three minutes. It’s moving large volumes of slash today while mounted on a pre-loved Sumitomo SH240 belonging to Raywood Contracting.

The first Flacon Slash Grapple Rake made was for Dale Ewers’ crew, Moutere Logging 3 in Nelson. That was used to load woody debris and slash into trucks to ensure there were no environmental issues if there was a significant weather event. That first one went into Moutere in 2022. The Moutere 3 crew had obviously seen the writing on the wall with mobilised slash further North and decided to start responding to this growing threat and to get ahead of it. Falcon now has three versions available, one to fit the Ensign 1530, this larger one to fit the 1730 and another to run on haulers via the Falcon Claw, but more about that later.

Still a recovering landscape

Engaging four-wheel drive, the belly of the ute scrapes on the road as we sidle up and over one ridge and down to a creek crossing which has blown out during Gabrielle and been rebuilt temporarily. Speaking with a few loggers from the region I hear there are multiple sites like this on the Cape and there is not a lot of room for error or complacency on some of these crossings....

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