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University of Canterbury to help with forestry safety

University of Canterbury to help with forestry safety

September 2, 2014

The University of Canterbury is to launch a new research project to make sure New Zealand’s new forestry roads are safe and are established with minimal environmental impact.

The New Zealand forestry industry is building more than 1400km of new roads a year and the research, to be conducted by Dr Kris Brown, will help improve design standards.

``The importance of infrastructure is widely recognised by forestry stakeholders, but the New Zealand Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel has heard that the quality and adequacy of forestry roads, bridges and skid sites are variable and often not up to the mark.

``I hope our research at the university’s School of Forestry will help raise standards for design, construction and maintenance of forestry roads.

``The likelihood of accidents can increase when infrastructure is not specifically designed for heavy forestry machinery and logging trucks. Infrastructure not wide or strong enough to withstand repeated heavy loads has been cited by the coroner as a contributing factor in accidents,’’ Dr Brown says.

He will investigate these important issues through his research and outreach to industry. His work has been helped by $100,000 grant, over five years, to the university from the New Zealand Forest Owners Association. Associate Professor Rien Visser says support from the association is important to the university’s forestry research.

``There is a need for more core forest engineering skills for all graduating forestry students, including harvest planning, being able to cost-effectively design infrastructure, understanding environmental standards and, most importantly, being able to effectively manage safety. Dr Brown will also expand his research into logging efficiency and forestry safety.’’

Associate Professor Visser says building a new road to access forest areas for harvesting can easily cost more than $100,000 per kilometre. These are costs that have to be recovered from the value of the trees harvested.

``The industry spends about $200 million a year on roads. As such our industry is seeking to build ‘fit-for-purpose roads’, a concept that attempts to minimise costs while not compromising safety and environmental performance.

``Research done to date at the University of Canterbury has indicated that the forest industry can readily improve its road construction practice by correctly testing, and subsequently compacting the substrate on which the road will be built.

``Most forestry companies use aggregates from in-forest quarries, and these aggregates do not typically meet a strength standard on which the national design curves are based. While new design standards for the lower quality material being used have been developed, we still need to test their validity.

``Safety is so important. A fully loaded logging truck can lose traction on a corner on a steep section of road with potentially fatal consequences. We have a comprehensive final year forest road engineering course to ensure our graduates enter the workforce have some of these core skills.’’

ends

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