Thursday, November 30, 2023

Forestry moves hit Hawke’s Bay contractor morale

Neal Wallace
Uncertainty after months of downed tools driving contractors from region.
‘First and foremost, our workforce needs to get back to work,’ Forest Industry Contractors Association chair Robert Stubbs says.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Forestry contractors are closing down or leaving Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast due to delays returning to work but also because of uncertainty following the report into the impact of forestry slash in Cyclone Gabrielle flooding.

Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) chief executive Prue Younger said contractors are being treated as a turn-on, turn-off industry and many are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

“Contractors want to be part of the forestry team and part of the solution, but we are still seen as a turn-on turn-off service provider,” she said.  

“Suggesting we have lost the social licence to operate with the community does not acknowledge the huge loss of jobs and major impact that will have.” 

Every week FICA hears of contractors leaving the East Coast-Hawke’s Bay region or winding up their businesses.

The government inquiry into woody debris that caused much damage to infrastructure and businesses during Cyclone Gabrielle questioned if forestry still had a social licence and suggested changes to harvesting methods.

Comments such as that and recommendations that out-of-work forestry crews be hired for clean-up work raise questions about the future of forestry careers, Younger said.

“My question is, what does a career in forestry look like going forward? Are there even going to be jobs available?” she said. 

“What do better practices look like? How much more will it cost to do this?

“The report talks about balancing economics and environmental aspects of this transition, but are the costs going to be passed onto the contractor as has happened in the past?  

“The responsibility lies with the landowner, we are very firm on that.

“If contractors work to a scope, then they must be rewarded aptly for carrying out that work,” she said in a statement.

FICA chair Robert Stubbs said practices do need to be assessed but there cannot be a knee-jerk reaction without more research into how practical and manageable they are.

“First and foremost, our workforce needs to get back to work,” he said.

Stubbs said some businesses are on the brink of closing, and clarity is needed now. 

“We acknowledge this report is only the first step, but we’re on an urgent timeframe and this may be too late for some.”

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