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Inaugural forestry scholarship awarded to 'clear thinking' local man

Hard work has paid off for a Gisborne man named as the recipient of an inaugural forestry scholarship.

Peter Kapene has been awarded a $6000 grant to assist with the costs of attending a forestry programme at a university or tertiary education facility.

Aratu Forests, one of the largest forestry management companies in the region, launched the Mackey (George) Papuni Scholarship in memory of the forestry worker who passed away earlier this year.

Mr Kapene, who is studying in Eastland Wood Council's Generation Programme, with training provided through Turanga Ararau, was the winning candidate among eight applicants.

“I am honoured to represent George and getting this scholarship will help me pay for my two-year diploma course in forestry management at Toi Ohomai in Rotorua,” he said.

After seeing a Facebook post about the scholarship, Mr Kapene's father told his son, who thought it sounded like something he would be interested in.

“I enjoy the outdoors and being out on the hills.”

Mr Kapene's continuous engagement with the environment encouraged him to pursue a career in forestry and eventually look to establish himself in the industry.

“Hopefully I will be back in Tairāwhiti to work at Aratu in the harvesting and silviculture sectors,” he said.

Aratu Forests Limited chief executive Neil Woods said unlike some other applicants, Mr Kapene had a clear thought process.

“The key thing about Peter was that he really thought about what the scholarship meant, especially in memory of George.

“He knew he was representing a person who worked here and most likely would be following in his footsteps. That's what came through strongly in his application,” Mr Woods said.

Mr Woods described the late employee as a hard worker and the kind of guy who was there to help others and encourage people to take an interest in forestry.

“His passing really rocked the team. Everyone held him in such high regard and we felt we should honour the person he was with some sort of award,” he said.

The scholarship was a way to pay respect and bring in more young people to the industry.

Aratu Forests plan to offer the scholarship annually. Applicants will be assigned a mentor from Aratu for their studies and given holiday work with the company, Mr Woods said.

“This is about giving them exposure to real life, a piece of forestry and the opportunity to learn more skills.”

UPHOLDING A LEGACY: Peter Kapene, centre, has been awarded a $6000 grant to assist with his tertiary studies in the forestry sector. He is pictured with, from left, Steve and Cate Kapene, Willy Grogan holding a picture of the late George Papuni who the scholarship is in memory of, and Aratu Forests' Neil Woods. Picture by Liam Clayton