Shaw Iron Test; Storm Salvage Operation with a difference

Shaw Iron Test; Storm Salvage Operation with a difference
     Story & photos: Tim Benseman

Dragging logs out of rivers is a big enough salvage operation as it is but when the Iron Test team arrived at Whitikau Forest in East Cape there was also a storm-damaged Washington 188 swing yarder and a landslide-damaged 10-wheel forwarder for Forestry Solutions Group (FSG) to rescue from the ravages of various storms over the last year with their Komatsu D65P bulldozer.

To give you an idea of where we are at in Whitikau, if you draw a line between Opotiki and Gisborne we are about the middle of that line – so in the Cape but not on it. The area is rugged and has a long history of logging and logging incidents due to the terrain and the weather. A bit more about that later.

FSG first started its association with this 300-hectare forest a couple of years ago when they bought a damaged Bellis 70 which had to be pushed and pulled out of this steep, high rainfall area for a rebuild in Gisborne.

Regular D65P operator, Neville, was running that hauler recovery operation and was a bit alarmed to learn that less than a year later the rebuilt machine had been leased to a crew who wanted it back in here.

This forest is a classic example of what to avoid when looking for logging work. At least six crews have worked in here and the first crew was told they would be logging the entire forest. If that doesn’t get alarm bells ringing it should. It’s a clear sign that it costs more money than you think to log it. Another clue is that almost all the internal roads and the majority of the forest’s trees are facing south so these slopes will rarely dry out, and will be prone to more slippage and disruptions to income generating activities. 

Talking to a few old hands, the consensus is nobody should have been in here logging at under $60 a tonne and probably a lot more.

Although the block has plenty of good, hard rock, most of the trees were never pruned or thinned, but at 35-plus years old there were some very good stems in here. Long A40 for miles. And, of course, at that age most of the branches snap off when the stem hits the ground but that still didn’t mean profits for loggers. No doubt the one-and-a-half-hour drive in from Opotiki or two hours from Gisborne on what the World Rally drivers called an “absolute sh#t road” (the Motu Road) would have soaked up a lot of expenses as well with wear and tear, accidents, flooded trucks, broken leaf springs, vehicles catching fire, fuel tankers and log trailers going over the bank and the like. 

Storm-ravaged machinery

After the Washington swing yarder’s anchor stumps slipped away in a storm and dragged it partially over the bank, FSG was sent in to start cleaning up and stabilising the forest.

Decent water controls have now gone in with regular, deep...

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