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Remote controlled felling

New Zealand’s first remote-controlled forest-harvesting machine will help ensure the safety of forestry crews working on steep land. Sources: The New Zealand Herald, The Northern Advocate

That was the verdict of Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy after he saw the machine in action near Nelson.

“This technology, developed by the Steepland Harvesting Primary Growth Partnership [PGP] program, is the first of its kind in New Zealand, and we believe a world first for a tracked excavator-based felling machine,” Mr Guy said.

“It marks a big advance in the safety of forestry harvesting operations while increasing productivity at the same time.

“It follows successful initial trials of a prototype system in July 2014.”

Steepland Harvesting is a six-year, NZ$6 million PGP program between the Ministry for Primary Industries and a consortium of forestry companies and contractors led by Future Forests Research.

The program has developed innovations including the ClimbMAX harvester, a ground-based, winch-assisted harvesting machine, which can fell and bunch logs on steep slopes of up to 45 degrees.

Two machines have been exported to British Columbia.

Since the Steepland Harvesting program started in 2010, the level of mechanisation of tree felling has increased from 23% of all harvesting operations in 2010, to 38% in 2014, according to industry information.

Installing remote control technology into the felling machine is a further step towards full out-of-line-of-sight harvesting, expected to be achieved next year.