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Money on Trees

Six Tairawhiti forestry projects boosted by One Billion Trees funding.

One Billion Trees funding of more than $1.5 million for six projects will bring employment and help kick-start the Tairawhiti economy following the Covid-19 lockdown, Forestry Minister Shane Jones says.

One Billion Trees grants of more than $89,300 have been provided to Abushman Contracts Ltd, a Maori-owned forestry silviculture business which has developed the Paiaka Forestry Introductory Programme.

Through this, 10 forestry workers whose jobs have been affected by Covid-19 will have the chance to gain NZQA credits and access wrap-around whanau-led wellbeing support.

“In addition, the workers will have job security pruning trees over the next three to six months on plantations administered by Crown Forestry and Ngati Porou Forests Ltd after both agreed to bring pruning work forward,” Mr Jones said.

In another project, up to 20 Tairawhiti forestry workers will have the chance to gain NZQA credits through Eastland Wood Council's Training the Next Forestry Generation project, which is receiving One Billion Trees funding of up to $56,488.

“Education opportunities like this not only keep people in the forestry sector but also ensure the workforce is upskilled and well-placed to help put New Zealand forestry and wood processing at the cutting edge as we move beyond Covid-19.

“Eastland Wood Council has long advocated to keep workers, particularly young people, engaged in forestry,” Mr Jones said.

One Billion Trees grants for several Tairawhiti erosion control programmes have also been approved.

“Thanks to community funding through the One Billion Trees fund via the Erosion Control Funding Programme (ECFP), the group's 18 landowners will be able to plant 78,000 native plants in the upper Motu catchment, helping prevent sedimentation and improving water quality in Tairawhiti.

“This funding means seven Tairawhiti locals will be employed, and will also enable the group to build 22.5 kilometres of fencing to protect the area from animals.

“Up to five locals will be employed through two additional ECFP projects that will each receive $40,000. The projects aim to prevent erosion by planting native trees, and are focused on harvesting native seeds from wild sources and processing the seeds, as well as documenting and inspecting ECFP locations.”

The funding underscored the Government's commitment to forestry and the region, he said.

EWC chief executive Kim Holland welcomed the funding boost.

“As the Minster has acknowledged, EWC has long recognised the need for the forest industry to ensure that we are developing the skills and our people, particularly our rangatahi, both now and for the future.

“It is also great to recognise Abushman Contractors for their Paiaka Forestry introductory programme, which provides on-the-job training towards qualifications, and whanau-led wellbeing support enabling them to develop their workforce and to provide sustainable employment on the East Coast; and also to Ngati Porou Whanau Forests and Crown forestry support to enable the initiative.

“There are great training, learning and career opportunities across the whole forestry supply chain, with our companies and contractors understanding that we need to continue to train, upskill and grow our people as the forest industry adapts to the requirements of the 21st century, with an increasing use of technology across all aspects of the industry.”

Re-engaging with those who had lost jobs

Ms Holland said the EWC Generation Programme was able to re-engage with forestry workers (GP trainees) who had lost their jobs in the last-in, first out job losses.

“Combined with our fifth cohort of GP trainees still under way, we were able to provide further skills training through the Wheels, Tracks and Rollers Programme, drivers' licensing and forestry first aid.

“It is a credit to our Generation Programme manager Siobhain Fyall, who was able to work with the training providers to get these training programmes under way within a week of coming out of lockdown. This ensured trainees were ready to be employed as soon as possible, and respond to the demand from contractors for workers.

“Prior to the lockdown there was an identified skills gap in the industry for people with plotting skills, so through this funding we have been able to purchase plotting equipment.

“Trainees have already been gaining valuable experience and training on site, with our Turanga Ararau industry training assessor Stan Hovell.”

In the two weeks immediately after lockdown, one of the trainees, Burgen Rohloff, was able to get his full driver's licence, complete the Wheels, Tracks and Rollers Programme, first aid training . . . and was immediately ‘snapped up' by Stubbs Contractors as a breaker-out and log QC.

“This shows the value of the Generation Programme training and skills to contractors and the East Coast Forest Industry,” Ms Holland said.

ONE BILLION TREES: Tairawhiti projects have been boosted by more than $1.5 million through One Billion Trees programme funding. File picture
MOVING FORWARD: Forestry Minister Shane Jones said of the funding for Tairawhiti forestry-related projects: 'Education opportunities like this not only keep people in the forestry sector but also ensure the workforce is upskilled and well-placed to help put New Zealand forestry and wood processing at the cutting edge as we move beyond Covid-19.' NZ Herald picture