Porter Press Extra: Tony Elmiger Ltd

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

Deals on Wheels meets Tony Elmiger and his team who have been using Hyundai excavators from Porter Equipment in the Kaingaroa Forest

Gauging quite how vast the Kaingaroa Forest really is, isn’t that easy until you’re actually in it. On a map, it’s evident this is quite some tract of land.

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But driving along the miles of straight green lanes—diverting into lanes off other lanes and then yet more lanes off those ones—with Tony Elmiger, who has worked in the forest for decades and knows this place like the back of his hand, it quickly dawns on you this is forestry, super-sized.

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"I could genuinely cover two to three hundred kays in one day and never get on a public road," Tony tells me as we drive along in search of a couple of his team members, working separate stands with separate Hyundai excavators, both fit for purpose for the tasks at hand.

Hyundai excavators at work

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We meet up with Piri Te Hiko first. Piri is operating one of Tony’s two Hyundai R210LC-9 H/C excavators. While the 21-tonne model mid-sizer has become standard fitment for many construction entities up and down the country, Tony’s two arrived with a difference.

"We do a lot of land prep work out in the forest and the biggest problem with this sort of work is the stumps," he says.

"It’s really hard going with a conventional machine when you’re trying to haul yourself over multiple stumps. So we invested in high-and-wide chassis set-ups for the two Hyundai R210LC-9 H/Cs we’re running. And I tell you what, we haven’t looked back since."

Operator Piri Te Hiko affirms Tony’s view: "It’s fast going now with the high-and-wide crawlers. There’s that extra height to get across even pretty big stumps, and the wider track set-up is awesome for stability. It means I’m working twice as fast as a standard digger in this terrain."

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With mist rolling in and the rain pelting down on the day I visited, that terrain certainly looks challenging. Part Murupara District, part Mordor. For the Hyundai’s part, though, the high-and-wide track set-up allows it to essentially tiptoe over stumps while Piri hollows out holes for future planting with a mounding attachment.

Tony says that his team’s basic remit in the forest is around access and skid sites—stump it, form it, and metal it are the main tasks for the company.

While the central Kaingaroa Forest is pretty stable in terms of slips and boggy ground, he says that satellite forests around the edges feature much more slippery pumice, meaning winters can be tough going.

"That’s the thing about the forest being so huge: you’re dealing with plenty of different landscapes. We have a machine over towards Rotorua, where there is a lot more thermal activity and the ground is so puggy in the wet, it can make things really tough going."

So, with this information in mind, you’ll forgive my raised eyebrows then, when Tony announces we’re next off to see another of his team—Ken McIllory and his Hyundai R140W-9. Just in case the photos haven’t given it away, that’s a wheeled excavator. Rubber tyres on a machine weren’t something I was anticipating in the forest.

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We come across Ken—down another of those long undulating green lanes—digging out soak holes at the roadside. Even manoeuvring short distances between holes, it’s immediately evident just how nimble the wheeled excavator is. The excavator remains sure-footed and fast even on claggy gravel. Tony’s machine is relatively new to his fleet, with around a thousand hours on the clock.

"I love the fact Ken can work one area and then move to another without any effort," Tony says. "We don’t need to call in the transport company to get him to his next task. We’ve fabricated an A-frame for his ute, so he will just hook that on the back and tow it with the Hyundai R140W-9 to wherever he is off to next. The excavator will travel comfortably at a safe road speed and it makes Ken’s day that much more efficient."

While he has a full-time diesel mechanic on staff, Tony relies on third-party haulage to get his machines from site to site. If he can mitigate the need for transporters to ferry the Hyundai R140W-9, then that’s a big operational bonus for him he says.

Forest ready

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In all, Tony’s machine fleet is petty extensive—including eight excavators and three bulldozers, along with a variety of smaller plant—but he likes the fact Porter Equipment supplies Hyundai machines forest-ready when required.

"I haven’t come across another manufacturer making a high-and-wide model out of a 20-tonner that you can just order like you can with the Hyundai," he says.

"Combined with hard-wearing safety spec like the ROPs and FOPs bars, gives them a definite competitive edge in my book."

Video: Hyundai machinery from Porter Equipment

Deals on Wheels catches up Tony Elmiger Ltd's Hyundai excavators operating in the Kaingaroa Forest. Check out the video below.

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