9 Dec 2016

Forestry on fire

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 9 December 2016

Forests planted on the East Coast of the North Island in the 1990s are now being harvested – and they're having a huge positive spin off for the local economy.

 Jason Campbell Mangatu Forest East Coast

Jason Campbell Mangatu Forest East Coast Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

One in four households in Gisborne is connected to forestry in some way, according to a recent study, whether that's working in the forest or the service industry (machinery repairs and tyre supplies)

As logging contractor Chris Hurring says, “Gisborne’s going off. It’s red hot.”

Forest companies are finding it hard to fill harvesting crew and forest supervisors roles and it's not as though the pay is poor.

Prue Younger, Scott Torrie, Iain McInnes, Bill Marker

Prue Younger, Scott Torrie, Iain McInnes, Bill Maaka Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

Chris Hurring says along with the common misconception that forestry is all about chainsaws and brawn, is a lack of knowledge about pay rates.

"Some of our better operators are on $100,000 to over $100,000 a year." 

Top-quality younger workers with about a year's experience are on $1000 to $2000 a week, he says.

Gisborne city's Eastland Port is also expanding rapidly on the back of increasing volumes of wood. Ninty percent of the East Coast logs go through the port, and they make up nearly the entire port's business.

Jason Campbell Mangatu

Jason Campbell Mangatu Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray

General manager Andrew Gaddum says they've spent $70 million upgrading the log yards and it's now hoping to build an extra shipping berth to cope with vessels leaving every two to three days.

"Two hundred people work here, five years ago it was half that number."

This is all a far cry from the early to mid 1990s when, as a university student. Andrew Gaddum was paid to demolish the meat works that used to be beside the port.

It was at the same time Watties pulled out of the area – "dark days".

Gaddum never expected to find work in his hometown, but because of forestry he has. It's a privilege, he says.

"It's such a beautiful part of the world. And bringing my kids up here, you know, they get a great lifestyle here."

Eastland Port Gisborne

Eastland Port Gisborne Photo: RNZ/Susan Murray