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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

A new technology approach to pruning or removing roadside trees that is much safer and more efficient than traditional methods is being put to use in Northland.

It’s a remote-controlled tree removal system called Tree-Mek, which combines a knuckle boom crane and a 360 degree grasper and saw operated from the safety of the ground. The system operated by Auckland-based company Arborist 360, is the first of its kind in New Zealand

“This is a fantastic improvement on the traditional approach to tree-felling, especially in a road maintenance environment. It’s so much safer for our workers, as they don’t have to climb trees or use chain saws at height,” says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult.

The specially designed chain-saw is remotely manoeuvred to grasp a trunk or branch of up to 800mm in diameter before cleanly sawing it off.  The severed log is then safely lowered to the ground, vastly reducing risks associated with workers using cutting machinery at heights.  The crane’s 32 metre extension means it can reach over obstacles and into awkward or limited workspaces.

The system, including the saw, is hydraulically driven which makes it much quieter than a hand-held chain saw.

The Tree-Mek in action, first holding and cutting a tree branch, before lowering it safely to the ground.

Arborists are usually called in to remove vegetation or prune trees to improve visibility or lighting on corners or when aging trees overhanging the road pose a safety hazard. Due to the specialist nature of the work, it’s sub-contracted to qualified arborists with traffic management teams keeping them and road users safe. 

“As well as being much safer to operate, the Tree-Mek is also much quieter so it can be used at night, which is another big asset in roadside tree management. It helps reduce costs and disruption for motorists because we can work at night, clean up and reopen the road before there’s much traffic around.”

“It’s a great workplace innovation that improves safety and efficiency,” says Jacqui Hori-Hoult.

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