Another logging company bites the dust...

By: Patrick Cox


Once again, the notorious logging industry bites into the heart of a major logging company, sending shockwaves of hurt and pain across two major logging regions. Northland, considered one of the poorer economic regions in the country, felt the pain with five logging crews laid off.

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This is going to be just a stab in the dark about what effect it has on the local economy in any district should it happen. Say the average crew size (five in Northland) was seven people per crew earning approximately $1000 a week. Multiply that out and it amounts to $35,000 a week not going into the local economy.

Rumour has it that logging crews affected by this massive receivership were left stranded in the bush as equipment was repossessed with no way of getting home but walking. Maybe the receivers needed to consider the well-being and safety of the individual in this instance.

It always comes as a surprise when companies go into receivership; management must know the state of their business and why is it that the workers only find out when they arrive at work to find they are 'locked out'.

Over the years, a number of large logging companies have gone bust. Obviously something has gone wrong, you cannot blame log prices as many other companies are still trading and will continue to do so.

Gisborne East Cape Poverty Bay was also affected with the loss of six logging gangs. On a recent visit to the district, it was great to see the city nice and vibrant to what it was 15 years ago. The port right in the heart of the city is just a hive of activity. Arriving on the Thursday night of Easter weekend we booked into a motel overlooking the port.

Logging trucks were still arriving well after dark, less than 200 meters away from our motel deck. It was a pleasant surprise at the noise level. The Volvo loaders were constantly busy unloading highway trucks and loading the ports, with short haul trucks taking logs to the boat. This is a 24-7 operation. The noise did not disturb our sleep – impressive.

You have to stop and think with the demise of this major logging company, this must have benefits to others. Outside the port at Gisborne were two other log ships waiting to be loaded, so the wood still has to come from somewhere. No slacking at the Gisborne port, late Friday afternoon the tugs escorted one ship out and another in for the process to start all over again.

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Seeing the tugs turn the ship around in the small confines of the Gisborne port was amazing. It is not surprising watching this operation that you have a better understanding of the amount of hours these machines clock up in a such a short amount of time.

The East Coast beckoned as my annual leave destination, a few days spent in Wairoa deer stalking produced a nice ten-pointer all vacuum-packed frozen and stored in the chilly bin ready for our next destination around the East Cape, Hicks Bay and Te Araroa. It was with some sadness to note that both the local sawmills in Wairoa were once again silent. The destruction of the railway last year by storms and the reluctance of the railway to repair them, according to locals, brought about the closure of the mills.

The journey up through Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru bay, Ruatoria to Hicks Bay was stunning; the roads here are starting to get a pounding now with so many forestry blocks coming on stream. Back in the 80s, so much of this goat country was planted in pines. Rugged razor-back ridges must make extraction very difficult and roading would have to be well planned. This country is so steep, you would have to think long and hard before you dropped felling machines over the edge on a rope.

Arriving in Te Araroa, log trucks were parked up here and there, great for this fledgling economy. The East Cape produced some excellent Snapper on the surf caster, vacuum-packed and in the chilly bin. The trip down to Whanarua Bay was interesting with more pine blocks ready for harvesting.

The surf caster worked its magic in Whanarua Bay attracting the attention of one local who came for chat, this soon turned to logging and in summing up his impression of the local logging scene, the initial cost on the first crop, roading and extraction will not see a huge return to the owner and it will not be until the second and third crop rotation that the benefits will come through to the local owners.

The development of this local forestry must create jobs, but the local was quick to point out that most of the silviculture work is done by crews from Kaitaia in Northland. Who knows, this might change as the logging industry becomes more ingrained into the local people. But why work, the East Cape is just one big food basket with wild pork, venison etc all just on your back door and snapper fighting each other to get on your hook.

With the demise of one big logging company, it is still business as usual, the logging industry is so well established it will survive and there will be others contractors in the future that will go bung, but that's logging.

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