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Future Forests Research Welcomes Government Support for Harvesting Research

The Government's allocation of new Primary Growth Partnership funding to improve forest harvesting technology has huge potential to benefit the New Zealand economy and make logging safer for workers on the ground.

Government will contribute up to $3.27 million over seven years, to be matched by the forest industry in a $6.5 million harvesting research programme that will produce estimated total net benefits of over $100 million by 2016.

Future Forests Research Ltd (FFR), the industry-driven company that promotes research partnerships between forest companies and Government, will manage the research programme on behalf of the Forest Owners Association.

We see multiple benefits from this programme. It will enable us to build on existing work by developing new high-tech harvesting machines to increase productivity and reduce the cost of extracting trees on steep slopes, as well as reducing hazards to workers.

That will enable the industry to contribute to a partnership with New Zealand manufacturers to develop better equipment for domestic use and export.

Steep country forests already contribute more than 40 per cent of New Zealand's log harvest, and this is forecast to rise to over 60 per cent in coming years. Present harvesting methods on this terrain, such as labour-intensive cable logging, have changed little in 50 years and are costly and hazardous to workers on the ground, who can be working out of sight of operators of cable hauling equipment.

New methods of operation with machines purpose-built for steep terrain would remove workers from hazardous areas.

FFR began a modest research programme in this area in January 2008 with a small, totally industry-funded budget.

New Zealand's competitors are very active in applied research to reduce harvesting costs, yet New Zealand has done no research in this area over the past 10 years.