Story: Forestry research

Page 7. Helping with the harvest

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Inventory methods

Forest inventory methods refined over many years by Forest Research Institute researchers are now used by commercial forestry companies. Measurements of trees within a forest are collected to assess exactly how much wood is available, helping forest managers plan harvesting operations to be as profitable as possible.

Mechanised harvesting

Felling trees is heavy, dangerous and costly work, but using machinery makes the job safer and more efficient.

Most harvesting equipment developed overseas was unsuitable for New Zealand conditions. After conducting their own research into mechanised harvesting, Tokoroa engineering company Waratah began making machinery for local loggers. Waratah has since become a world market leader.

The high-viz vest

Harvesting researchers designed an item of clothing that has now become a Kiwi classic – the high-visibility vest. To make loggers more visible in the forest, coloured stripes were printed onto black singlets. These safety garments became so popular that the same style has been adopted by other industries.


High labour and transport costs make it difficult for New Zealand forest growers to compete internationally. To gain maximum value from every tree, researchers have identified logging methods that are efficient but minimise trunk damage, and the best ways of dividing each trunk into the log sizes to fetch the highest prices. This concept of gaining maximum value at the time of harvest has spread to other countries, where previously the main concern was to reduce harvest costs.


Since the early days of plantation forestry, researchers have tried to improve log-processing methods. Sawmillers have to work with variable log sizes, shapes and wood quality, and obtain the highest possible timber grades.

During the Second World War, state demonstration sawmills were set up at Waipā (near Rotorua) and Conical Hill (Otago). They were important in the development of sawing, grading, drying and wood preservation technologies for plantation timbers.

How to cite this page:

Margaret Richardson, 'Forestry research - Helping with the harvest', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 July 2024)

Story by Margaret Richardson, published 24 Nov 2008