Logging industry in the new year

By: Patrick Cox

Logging industry in the new year Logging industry in the new year
Logging industry in the new year Logging industry in the new year
Logging industry in the new year Logging industry in the new year

In his latest column, Patrick Cox talks about what can be done to improve the image of the logging industry in New Zealand

When this comes to print, it will be the new year, and I hope all of you come back to work refreshed and ready for 2017—the year of the bushman. What can we do to improve the image of our logger? For many years, those who work in a town/city environment had no idea what this industry was all about. All you see as a townie is those big annoying logging trucks trundling through town, or for those out in the country, these trucks are destroyers of roads that do nothing more than create a dammed dust nuisance.

Just recently, I was way up back country Northland visiting a farmer and the conversation got around to the state of the main road going past his property. It would be one of the worst roads in Northland.

The farmer quickly pointed out that these trees had been growing for 30 years waiting for harvest, and in that time, the owner of that forest block had been paying rates like the rest of us. Rates, of course, are collected for the purpose of keeping our local economies running and maintaining our roads for all who use them. Back to logger perception. In a conversation with a local guy, we were discussing how some loggers were a bit rough on equipment. He was convinced that at least more than 90 percent of them were rough. This percentage of misunderstanding gutted me a little, as I know it is but a few who make it worse for the rest.

A couple of instances happened to our company in Northland over the last few months. We are in the business of supplying diesel tanks to clients including trailer tanks. I supplied a brand-new trailer tank to a client who was appreciative of our support. He was a little stunned when his men picked up a full trailer tank with strops to turn it around on the skids when it dropped and ran backward down the skid into a stack of logs. One bent axle and chassis later, one embarrassed contractor was in for a major repair cost. The other was just complete stupidity when a loader driver tried to pick up a full trailer tank with the grapple and squeezed it out of shape. I guess if you put this guy's brain in a bird, the bird would fly backwards. This is what we are up against when we are trying to lift the image of our logging industry—a few nutters doing the wrong thing will get the word out.

I visit a number of logging crews through the year, and with all industries, you have to sign in. On the odd occasion, one of the crew members will greet you with a 'Gidday, bro', and get you sign the book. On other occasions, you won't be greeted warmly and will just be asked to sign in.. However, this does not hold true for all. There are an excellent number of loggers out there that do their job well, and this is not aimed at you but you do get put into the mix.

There seems to be a perception by a few who work in the bush that this gives you a licence to treat machines roughly. As an operator, you have the responsibility of an expensive piece of equipment that your employer has spent big bucks on not only to make money for himself but also to offer employment to the community. Respect that machine, treat it if it were your own, clean it, and keep the operator's compartment spotless. Your employer and the forest company you work for will notice this. Should an opportunity come up for owning your own crew, who are they going to offer it to—"the cowboy" or the specialist? You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work that out.

How do we fix our image? Here are a few ideas: change you answer service from "leave a message" or "you know what to do" or just a grunt, to "Hello, this is ABC logging. Please leave a message. Thank you." Simple stuff but it works. Greeting strangers onto your site with a smile and hello will go a long way. It can be unnerving for those arriving on a logging site for the first time, as the logging reputation has spread far and wide. Those of us associated with the industry know that is rough and tough out there. It is a dirty job getting covered in pine gum, mud, and dust all day long. As with any job, there has to be a sense of pride in who and what you do. The logging industry is no exception, so stand up and be counted and make this industry something to be proud of.

This year, let us start off with a sense of purpose to keep yourself safe and watch out for your mates and keep them safe as well. The industry will be busy with many more blocks coming on stream. Remember last month's article on production verse deaths. No matter what the demand for wood is, your life is paramount.

Let us get through the year death-free, set a record, prove the unbelievers that it can be done, and lift the industry off the bottom of the table as the most dangerous industry in the country. Someone else can lay claim to that infamous stigma. Most of you would have stopped working on 23 December and would come back on 9 January—not a big break and not all the holiday you are entitled to. As loggers, I know you like the money and will work through to next Christmas.

A wise old man once said to me—all the money in the world is no good to you, son, if you're in the graveyard. If you're feeling a bit stuffed through the year, take some holidays. You are entitled to them. Spend some time with your wife, children, and family. They deserve you. Happy New Year.

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