Feature - Breaking Out
Logger makes woodlots pay
I’ve heard them described variously as “money pits” and “crew breakers” because of the way they consume resources, effort and finances, but give little back in return.
It takes a special type of contractor to make woodlots work. And it takes a very special contractor to make a proper living from them across 12 months of the year.
Someone like Rob Leslie, from Northland, whose approach to woodlots is quite unusual. Well, in New Zealand it is.
Rather than just being hired by landowners to harvest their wood, Rob takes a more entrepreneurial approach and will often go for stumpage.
That can range from buying the land and the trees that are on it, or just the trees, to opting for an ‘open book’ where he’ll organise everything and take a cut at the end of the job.
Stumpage is quite a common way for logging contractors to obtain work in the United States, but I’ve not come across it much in this country. Most woodlot harvesting is conducted through a third party, usually an independent forestry manager/consultant or an exporter, with the contractor being the ‘hired gun’.
There are good reasons why many contractors steer clear of stumpage. It can be littered with unforeseen problems, especially if the contractor pays too much to the woodlot owner and the market price drops, or demand dries up and there is no outlet for the wood when it’s cut. Or the quality or size of the logs don’t meet expectations when harvested. Talk about a minefield.
Rob Leslie knows the pitfalls, but he’s still prepared to back himself to make a buck at the end of the job, based on his experience in the bush...
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