Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri – Forestry work in the modern age

The programme will help address an increasing labour shortage in the forestry sector by making the industry more attractive to employees, improve worker safety, and deliver significant labour productivity gains through increased mechanisation and automation.


The programme aims to create value, improve profitability, and enhance sustainability across the forestry value chain through automation.

The programme's vision is "No boots on the ground, no hands on the log".

The challenges

The forestry sector faces some major challenges that are inter-related and will need to be overcome to capture the opportunities.

Labour shortages

Labour shortages both in harvesting and log transport are a major constraint on the industry. The increased harvest will require around 100 extra contracting crews and 700 additional workers from current levels (a 20% increase).

Rising costs

Rising costs leading to marginal forest profitability (especially in small-scale forests). Recent research by Crown Research Institute Scion indicates that, under current costs and prices, increased harvesting costs of $10 a cubic metre could result in 9% to 11% more of the small forest resource becoming uneconomic to harvest. These areas are unlikely to be completely harvested without a change in approach and technology.

Social licence

The sector's social licence to operate is threatened due to its poor safety record and environmental impact. This makes the sector less attractive for employment

Law changes

Regulatory changes can affect forestry operations. For example, when recapture of chemical log fumigants (methyl bromide) becomes a requirement in 2020, it could double the cost of export log fumigation.

Constraints on overall harvesting system productivity

While the earlier PGP Steepland Harvesting Programme has achieved increased felling and extraction productivity, the current harvest process is bottlenecked at the landing by the log sorting function. The number of log types sorted and stored on the landing drives construction of large log landings, with significant volumes of soil displacement, which on steep terrain is a major environmental risk. Wood residues from the log manufacturing process, which are currently unmerchantable, result in loss of productive area and pose a risk in terms of "mobility downslope" during high intensity rainstorms.

The solution

The programme has 3 interrelated work streams.

Work stream 1: New automated technology

The programme will develop new forest harvesting and logistics products – from design through to prototype development and testing. These new products will eliminate hazardous manual tasks and teleoperate some functions, such as truck loading, to make tasks safer. They will automate functions such as log sorting, log tagging, residue chipping and load securing, to make jobs quicker and less repetitive.

The new system will:

  • incorporate semi-automation into other functions to make tasks easier and more efficient
  • provide a solution for reducing log wastage
  • improve log sorting, handling, and loading processes at the sort yard.

Work stream 2: Human factors of forestry automation

The programme will identify the skills and knowledge required to operate the new machines and will develop training and operating procedures, and establish qualifications associated with the new machinery.

Work stream 3: Commercialisation and deployment

The programme will promote new technologies and their benefits across the sector. It will assist with business development for the manufacturing partners and deployment of the new systems and processes.

Outcome logic model [PDF, 362 KB]


Programme Start: 1 January 2019
Length: 7 years
PGP Funding: $11,744,000
Industry Funding: $17,616,000
Crown funding paid out to the programme for work done to 30 June 2019: $107,398
Commercial partner: Forest Growers Research Limited
Estimated potential economic benefit to NZ:  The programme's financial goal is to deliver operational cost savings of $27.5 million per annum by 2025, increasing to $76.8 million per annum by 2031, realised through improvements in labour productivity, harvesting efficiencies, and environmental improvements. Machinery sales are forecast to return a gross margin of $4.9 million per annum by 2025, increasing to $23.3 million per annum by 2031.

Quarterly Progress Report Summaries

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January - March 2020 – Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
October - December 2019 – Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
July - September 2019 – Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
April - June 2019 – Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
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