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Wheels on Fire


There’s an old saying that goes: If you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll always end up with the same result.


In these highly uncertain times, foresters are understandably more conservative with decision-making in order to protect their businesses, people and homes from the ravages of an overstocked Chinese market (again), lower log prices (again) and something completely out of left-field, like the Covid-19 virus.


So, it’s refreshing when someone steps outside their comfort zone and tries something completely new, both to them and much of the industry.


Rotorua-based contractor, Conan Hemsworth, is one of those people.


When his clear-fell contract with Hancock in Kinleith Forest finished a little over a year ago, Conan could easily have throttled back and relied on his two remaining crews with Port Blakely to sustain the CMH Contracting operation. Yeah? Nah.


He decided to give something else a go. Production thinning… with a difference. Using a wheeled harvester instead of a tracked base.


Wheeled harvesters have become a hot topic among thinning crews, with a handful operating around the country in place of tracked machines.


But it would be wrong to reference this trend as a ‘wheels versus tracks’ war.

There are good arguments for and against both options, and it just comes down to whatever suits a contractor’s circumstances, the forest owner’s objectives and the working environment.


A wheeled harvester made sense for Conan Hemsworth when he decided to pitch for a thinning job with Timberlands in Kaingaroa Forest that he heard about when his Kinleith contract wound up. He’s not new to thinning. It’s where Conan started 20-something years ago after returning to New Zealand following his OE in Wales, working in a variety of forests, as well as playing rugby.


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