Snippets from the levy Transport Committee
Vaughan Kearns, New Zealand Tree Grower November 2022.
I have been sitting on the levy funded Transport Committee for 12 months and wanted to share with NZFFA members some of what goes on within. I originally joined to represent the NZFFA because l wanted to find out where we are at with train transport as it relates to the movement of logs from forests to ports or timber processing plants. This is a subject l have not raised yet as l now understand that the transport committee is essentially a log truck committee.
The committee undertakes essential work.There is a large emphasis on road safety which is good.The number of daily log truck movements on our roads is mind- boggling.The number of accidents or near misses are a tiny fraction of log truck trips.This is a direct result of an industry which takes driver and public safety seriously. It is right that emphasis is applied in this direction.
Without going into detail, we have –
- A log truck safety council to fulfil the role that its title suggests
- A Wairoa Judicial Review, which relates to the fairness of rating forest land to raise funds for road maintenance – more on this later in another riveting article
- Roll-over warning system prevention report requiring technical input
- A log truck reporting system involving a survey
- A fatigue project ‘Get real behind the wheel’ with a driver safety focus
- ‘Wood is good, share the road’ safety programme run by wood councils targeting schools
- Oversight of the forest roading and engineering standards.
All this is continuing, but I want to let you know more about the relationship between forest owners, log truck operators and local body road maintenance departments. The forest industry has historically taken a fragmented approach to dealing with rural roading at the local level. Individual companies have approached councils with forecast information provided from time-to-time.
When trees are about to be harvested, rural roads are sometimes not fit for the purpose and need upgrading and maintenance before they can be used by log trucks. This is especially the case for woodlot owners who are not involved in regular harvests.
Forest companies have usually paid for road maintenance in their targeted rates, but many councils have not ‘ring fenced’ these funds and by the time the trees are being harvested, the cupboard is bare. Forest companies must still get the logs out and in some cases have paid for an upgrade or maintenance work to be carried out to ensure their work can carry on.
Information on time
If we are to limit such roading problems it is important to provide timely information.The recommended process is for wood councils to bring together their members to collate reliable and robust information which can be taken to their relevant local authorities with a single voice.This helps them understand the needs of the forest sector infrastructure and be able to manage them with their planning and budgeting processes.
This needs to take place at a senior level within local authorities.Wood councils need to continually enhance the sector’s licence to operate.The key is sharing accurate wood flow forecast information which can be used to assess rural roading infrastructure needs and costs and presenting plans to fund any required work. In some cases, central government funding is required where a wood council can work with a local body to build the business case for such funding.
A lot happening
There is a lot going on behind the scenes which most forest owners may be unaware of. Forest owners have participated in the Road Controlling Authorities Forum’s Special Interest Group on Low Volume Roads. This pan sector group developed guidelines which provide a method for councils to equitably allocate the cost of maintenance for low volume roads. Along with a number of district councils, industries involved were dairy, quarry, heavy haulage and farm forestry.
Equitable funding guidelines have been developed to calculate the road usage on low volume roads, by each sector within their district of operation. So hopefully who you know or the squeaky wheel are not the prerequisites for rural road funding.Vaughan Kearns is a member of the NZFFA Executive.