Industry urged to make the most of support
The forestry slowdown to hit the district is a timely reminder of what a commodity market-driven industry it is, says Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland.
Ms Holland's comments come as the council welcomes a positive rebound across the forestry sector after a crisis sparked last week by a combination of the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese New Year and increased log imports into China from Europe and Australia.
A log ship began loading at Eastland Port yesterday, much of the district's log truck fleet has gone back to work and harvesting has resumed in many forests.
“After the shock of last week it is great to hear that most forest companies are back to business this week and have forestry operations and cartage under way,” Ms Holland said.
“We are still very much in a wait-and-see mode to see how the situation unfolds in China as they get back to wood processing and manufacturing.
“There is also the drop in the log price and that will be something we will be keeping an eye on in coming weeks, and months.”
Some forestry contractors and crews remain on reduced hours or days while others are on stand-down.
For these groups, there was a direct financial hit as they had financial commitments they could not meet and didn't currently meet the Ministry of Social Development Emergency Benefit thresholds, Ms Holland said.
“For example, we have truck drivers in this situation.
“The current situation has highlighted the need for business and financial information/advice/planning and support for our small business owners to manage through tough times because there will be tough times in our industry.
“Contractors are particularly vulnerable as they have big overheads with leases/running costs of plant and machinery, as are owner drivers.
“The impact is hardest for those working in the smaller wood lots and farm forests, where those owners only get one shot to make their retirement income and so will hold off to see how the price improves,” she said.
“It is a timely reminder it is a commodity market-driven industry, with market forces impacting on small businesses, employees and their whanau.”
Ms Holland said EWC urged contractors and small business owners to make use of the support and information services.
“Because while most of them are back at work, it is an opportunity to look at their business management, particularly their financial management, in preparing for the times ahead.
“The current situation has strongly identified that some small businesses and contractors need assistance in ensuring the financial sustainability and viability of their businesses in tough times.
“We are all in agreement we need to keep our people working and we appreciate the support of employers in other sectors who have offered temporary and seasonal work to get people through.
“It also shows that while our forestry workers generally receive a good wage, some of them live week-to-week, so budgeting advice and support would be helpful so they are able to manage their money to see out the hard times.”
Ms Holland said EWC was grateful for the offers of seasonal and temporary work from a range of sectors, particularly farming and horticulture.
“We have been coordinating directly with contractors and working out the best way to share the work around.
“We still have uncertain times ahead, but on a positive note, here in Tairawhiti . . . we are working together, being proactive, and being prepared.”
■ Trust Tairawhiti hosted an information and support services session today.