Cover Story: Madill 124 swing yarder

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

The Madill 124 certainly fits the ‘big’ tag and makes the steep terrain of a Northland forestry block as much of a level playing field as possible

Just outside the Whangarei city limits, the landscape gets vertically minded in a hurry. While the precipitous terrain of the Whangarei Heads leaves any visitor under no illusions that Northland is hill country, heading through the north-eastern suburbs to a busy block in the Glenbervie Forest sees the environment switch from urban, to lifestyle, to rugged, all within the space of about 12km.

The mighty Madill 124 is one of a handful of Madill swing yarders in the Rosewarne fleet

While craggy peaks dominate the skyline in general, there’s one big bruiser of a machine that dominates this particular plantation—a Madill 124 swing yarder, owned by Whangarei-based family firm, Rosewarne Contractors.

From strength to strength

Rosewarne Contracting have men and machinery spread throughout the north of the North, such as here in the Glenbervie Forest

The scale of the combined Rosewarne operations is pretty immense, with crews stationed at various places around the top of the North Island, between Twin Bridges and Whangarei in the north, Dargaville and Riverhead in the west, and Hunua near the Bombay Hills in the south.

The company was formed back in 1987, carrying out land clearing and preparation and started logging in 1989. In 1997, Lars and Fiona Rosewarne secured a key supplier contract with Carter Holt Harvey and Rosewarne Cable Loggers was formed. More than 20 years later, the company has gone from strength to strength, with Rosewarne continuing to manage forests even after Carter Holt Harvey on-sold their interests to new owners.

As Kerry Pellegrom, company health and safety coordinator, tells me, in total there are plenty of crews clearing plenty of timber. The Glenbervie block, owned by Rayonier, is just one of several crew owned or managed by the Rosewarne team.

"In all, we have 12 crews harvesting an average of 700,000 tonnes of timber per year, across approximately 1200 hectares of land," she says.

"Some crews, such as the ground-based teams, are smaller than others. But we probably average about 10 people per crew, so all-in-all, we have a big team. We have several swinger and ground-based combination crews, as well as tower sites."

Kerry says in addition to the big red and white Madill 124 I checked out on the day of my visit, the company has two others operating in forests at Pipiwai and Dargaville.

In order to ensure better work-life balance for employees, Kerry says Rosewarne is keen that as many of their people as possible can get home of an evening, despite big distances sometimes being involved.

"We have introduced a cap on weekly hours for our guys, because they have to look after their health and their home life, too. There has been a big shift in the culture within the industry over the last few years, which has been great to see," she says.

On-site at Glenbervie, crew foreman Sheldon ‘Sonny’ Mathews says this block will give the team there a good five years’ worth of work.

To that end, an extensive roading network was constructed during the summer months. With winter knocking on the door now, Rosewarne’s in-house five-man roading construction team has been absorbed into the harvest crews. But there’ll be plenty more road construction and maintenance required towards the end of the year.

No Rosewarne Contractors machine is ready to go until it has its signature airbrush art

Sonny points out that company boss Lars ensures every big machine Rosewarne Contractors runs has bespoke intricate airbrushed artwork on its panels, which gives the mobile plant a personality all its own, as well as helping to install a sense of care for the gear among the operators.

Steep slope specialists

The Madill 124 features a Canadian/US/Kiwi combo on its cab—a tribute to all the countries that have built Madill. It celebrates the hefty swing yarder’s country of origin, and the fact that the terrain isn’t so different in our part of the world as it is from the west coast of Canada.

"If you’re good at the steep slope stuff, then you’ll do well here," says Sonny. "We are steep slope specialists because of the experience we have in this part of the country. Lars has been doing this sort of work for years and is always thinking about the next innovation, the next method of harvesting safely and efficiently.

"We have a lot of big machinery, like the Madill, but that means our operation is completely up to standard when it comes to harvesting in places like this."

Design details

The Madill 124 has an operating weight of 65 tonnes

Distributed and supported throughout New Zealand by Porter Equipment, the Madill 124 certainly fits the ‘big’ tag. Slab-sided and fit for purpose, it’s powered by a Tier III-compliant 14-litre Detroit Series 60 engine, which offers up maximum horsepower of 450hp (335kW), run through an Allison 4500 OFS Powershift transmission. The Madill 124 has an operating weight of 65 tonnes.

The machine features Madill’s own regenerative winch design with waterfall drum arrangement consisting of independent main drums offering up equal reversing. The yarding boom measures in at 60ft, while the 450-foot capable boom hoist boasts maximum pull of 8500lbs at a maximum speed of 165ft/min.

Madill has a reputation for engineering operator cabs that offer plenty of visibility, plenty of space, and plenty of strength, too. The Madill 124’s rear-entry cab is a single-piece unit, which can be hydraulically raised. The Marguard-protected front windows benefit from the forward sloped design of the cab to offer as much outward vision as possible through the heavy-duty ROPS/FOPS grille protection.

Madill operator Ben Hardy

Operator Ben Hardy says that the machine is rock solid, although, he still uses remote camera technology to ensure he has an eye on everything, all the time.

"The camera out on the cable over the drop-off means I can see what’s happening between the machine and the opposite slope without having to be positioned close to the edge of the flat. With the machine anchored in place with another excavator, I can winch up everything without having to compromise my stability and safety," he says.

Sonny says that Lars Rosewarne and his fellow company directors choose Madill machinery because they trust it will do the hard yards in the forest, as evidenced by the other machines from the Canadian manufacturer already on the fleet.

"Lars is a real forward thinker and has been in the industry long enough to know what works and what doesn’t," he concludes. "He has seen two rounds of harvesting in some of these forests, so he knows what it takes to make sure his investment in mobile plant will pay off in this terrain. Between Madill and Porter Equipment, we are pretty well covered out here."

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