Porter Press Extra: Mount Heslington Contractors

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer

With an extensive Hyundai and Madill fleet on the frontline, Mount Heslington Contractors owner Aaron Clark knows he has back-up behind his business when it counts

Despite the name on the door, don’t go looking for Mount Heslington anywhere near Aaron Clark’s Masterton base. The inspiration for his successful logging company’s name comes from much further south.


Hyundai machinery at work at Aaron’s Masterton base

"I’m a West Coast boy originally, but I spent a long time working in the forests around Nelson," says Aaron. "Mount Heslington is actually just outside Richmond, near to where I was living when I formed the company. But I’ve actually been based in the Wairarapa for the last 10 years."

While the Mount Heslington Contracting logo has been present in the Wairarapa for the past decade, Aaron’s career in the forest stretches back much further. His father was a logger on the West Coast (right where the Pike River Mine site is now in fact), and Aaron himself left school at 15 and went straight into the bush.

Aside from a brief spell share milking (which proved pretty rewarding for Aaron, who won several national awards for his work), he’s a logger through and through.

"I’ve worked for a few different companies over the years, including PF Olsen for a while where I ended up managing three crews, including one out at Rabbit Island, but then I decided to buy my own gear off Nelson forester Mike Fraser back in 2004.

The Hyundai R380LC-9 fitted with a processing head

"Bert Hughes from Forest Enterprises offered me work in the North Island 10 years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. But yeah, I brought the Mount Heslington name north with me," he laughs.

These days, Mount Heslington Contracting has plenty on. Aaron is now running one crew, with a new crew due to start a fortnight or so after we catch up. The team has been harvesting Forest Managers New Zealand blocks near Bideford, about 20 minutes outside Masterton towards the Wairarapa coast, for the last two years.

With the extra manpower on the horizon comes the need for an extra machine. Aaron will be taking delivery of a new Hyundai R380LC-9 from distributor Porter Equipment soon, although this big 38-tonne excavator is nowhere near his first machine from Hyundai.

He already runs one Hyundai R380LC-9 fitted with a processing head, along with two Hyundai R290LC-9 excavators which are tasked with loading, tracking and shovelling in support.

An older Hyundai R210LC-9 acts as a floater, while Aaron’s frontline fleet is rounded out with a Madill HT2250C log loader; the Canadian manufacturer being another component of Porter Equipment’s wider stable of machine brands.

Aaron Clark

The second Hyundai R380LC-9 was specified for the new crew because Aaron says, quite simply, the excavator has the size and the horsepower to really deliver on volume.

Combined, the Mount Heslington Contracting crews pull out around 7000 tonne of wood a month from the slopes here, but Aaron says the most productive day with the 38-tonner yielded 725 cubic metres.

"That was a full-on day, but the machine was certainly up for the work," he says. The terrain is generally pretty forgiving out at Bideford, although Aaron says they’re starting to get into a few steeper spots now.

He says winch set-ups will be inevitable at some point, but this situation will provide an opportunity for him and his crews to problem solve their way into more inaccessible stands of trees throughout the 160-hectare lot. All up, there’s plenty of harvesting left to complete, with near to a 10-year programme ahead of the company.

Aaron’s fleet consists mostly of Hyundai machinery

"You can have good gear, which I certainly do have, but the gear is only as good as the jokers driving it. That’s why I have always pushed to surround myself with good people, like our foreman Dylan Terry for example.

"I trust our team to put the hard yards in and we’ve got a good crew. I think I’ve been in the bush long enough now to spot a troublemaker as soon as they show up, and we’ve rid ourselves of those here," he says.

The good people around Aaron extends to the local Porter Equipment team, who service and support the Mount Heslington Contracting fleet. Aaron says he can have any one of three mechanics on the phone at any time and for him that’s the big difference between Porter Equipment and many other distributors.

The Mount Heslington Contracting crews pull out around 7000 tonne of wood a month

"No one else can give me support like they do. Stuff happens in the bush occasionally—it doesn’t matter what the machine is—so you need to know you’re covered for expertise and parts, and that backstop is going to come up the road as quickly as possible to help you.
Aaron says he is big on maintenance of his fleet and always has been.

"Hyundai gear is good because it does everything we ask of it and its overall cost of ownership is very attractive. But yeah, our guys definitely try to look after our equipment as best they can.

"It’s a big investment, but then you have to have the right gear to succeed in this game. More than that though, you really need the right people—both working for you and partnering with you—to help get the job done."

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