Government legislation on forestry

By: Patrick Cox

Government legislation on forestry Government legislation on forestry
Government legislation on forestry Government legislation on forestry
Government legislation on forestry Government legislation on forestry

Patrick Cox watched with some dismay a few weeks ago a couple on TV berating the government about the lack of legislation or the time it was taking for the government to implicate new legislation relevant to the forestry industry.

My heart went out to this couple as they had lost their son in a forestry accident, but that is where it stopped – it is not the government’s fault.

Before I go on, I spent 25 years in forestry and during those years, my parents had a son in the bush. Now as a parent, I also have two sons in the forest industry, both had accidents in their early years. My eldest slipped and fell on his chainsaw severely lacerating his stomach, at the same time the bush inspector’s son did exactly the same thing. My youngest took the tendon out of his big toe when the saw kicked back.

They were not bubble-wrapped as kids and grew up in a forestry environment. They raced quad bikes, were taught to hunt, dive and fish and took a few bumps, cuts and bruises along the way. By the time they were ready to go to work, they were prepared for the big wide world and now between them they have 40 years logging experience behind them, they run an efficient and safe logging company.

We all have choices in the choosing the job we do, the government does not choose our profession – I chose this industry. Most New Zealanders might not realise that New Zealand was built on the back of tough kauri bushman, I have just finished reading Working the Kauri by Duncan Mackay [Auckland Random Century (1991) – Ed]. I highly recommend you give it a read, just to see how tough these buggers were: Living for six to nine months at a time in the bush, working 10 hours a day, six days a week, with no grog in the camps.

Accidents happened in those days as well, any cuts considered not worthy of a doctor’s attention were stitched by yourself or your mate and you went back to work. They did this job because they loved it, the money was good but not without danger. The culture among these bushman was built on trust and respect and they looked after their mates. When we look at rules and regulations, legislation and workplace health and safety, nothing has stopped people having accidents.

It is 12 months since the workplace road show review went around the country talking to contractors, forest owners and forest managers for input and ideas to "report back" to the government for legislative changes. It is interesting to note 2013 was a bad year with a dozen deaths and everybody was jumping on the bandwagon to crucify the logging industry.

So what has happened to these crusaders? Have they dropped off the radar because the logging industry has picked up its ideas? Or is the logging industry having a good run with low accidents and deaths?

Society has reached a sad state, we play the blame game all the time but we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. More people drown in New Zealand than workers killed in the bush.

Every worker has the right to a safe working environment, and it is in each logging company’s interest to provide one, but what the company cannot prevent is that worker who does something stupid and ends up killing himself or one of his workmates. There are a number of logging companies who continue to implement new ideas and machines into its workplace at a significant cost to themselves to make its employees’ jobs safer.

Forest managers and owners are also tackling the problem on their own accord, one forest owner now requires all that enter the forest environment to have general requirements certification – another step in the right direction. But, I must ask the question, what does the ordinary employee do by himself to further his training? Does he just sit there and wait for his employer to push him into more certification?

Maybe the loggers should take a leaf out of the old kauri logger’s book and look out for their mates, take better care of their equipment – be proud of who and what they are and who they work for.

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