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Harvesting radiata pine at Tinui

Harriet Palmer, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2011.

In April 2011 we harvested a 1.5 hectare block of 1985 radiata pine. The block was planted by previous owners of the land under guidance of Wellington Regional Council, and was mainly to control land movement as it sits at the bottom of two fault lines. In this respect it had been a success. The trees had been pruned and thinned somewhat, but this was by no means a prime crop.

We decided in the spring of 2010 to harvest the block, ideally in February and March of 2011 for two main reasons −

  • The stand had been under-thinned, and was deteriorating, with an understorey of suppressed trees developing
  • The stream running through the middle of the stand was undercutting its banks and bankside trees were continually falling into the stream.

Peak prices

We received two tenders for the work which were very close in terms of price. We opted to go with FOMS – Forestry Owner Marketing Services Ltd, based in Feilding, mainly because they were able to harvest in the late summer when we hoped conditions would be dry. Marcus Musson was our harvesting manager and the harvesting contractors were Forweda Contracting.

The trees were harvested under a managed sale agreement, where the risk associated with log price variation rests with the forest owner. As it turned out, we hit the peak period for log prices. We were also lucky that, despite the harvest being later in the season than we had hoped, the weather remained dry for almost the whole operation.

Not the best of timber

The area harvested was approximately 1.5 hectares. The total weight of logs over the weighbridge was 809 tonnes, of which approximately 75 per cent went to China via the wharf at Wellington wharf. The remainder went as sawlogs to Eurocell in Upper Hutt and Kiwi Lumber in Masterton.

Logging costs came to $33.50 a tonne. The transport costs were $14 a tonne to Masterton, $25.50 to Upper Hutt and $32.50 a tonne to the wharf. The average price received per tonne was $31.85 and the total return to Tinui Forest Park Ltd came to $25,766. We were very pleased with the operation and were lucky with the financial result, given the mediocre quality of the crop, and the fact that prices have now slipped back.

Replanting

The site will be replanted with redwoods in winter 2012. We are delaying replanting by one year to allow us to spray off any pine regeneration.

Costs which will be paid for out of the harvest income include −

  • Clearance of some of harvesting debris, and reinstatement of skid site into grass
  • Repairs and upgrade of the farm road carrying logging trucks to the site made before and during harvest
  • Re-fencing the site to keep stock out of replanting
  • Improving site drainage before replanting
  • Pre-planting site preparation
  • New planting costs.

Suffice to say, we will not have much left over.

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