Unemployment in the logging industry

By: Patrick Cox, Photography by: Patrick Cox

Northland is short of at least 50 workers in the logging industry. You have to ask the question why? Why can the industry not get people to work in forestry?

The logging industry is, after all, one profession that you can stay in for a lifetime. My only concern is the retirement age creeping up to 67 years.

That is just too tough for this job; 60 years of age would be plenty. I’m sure your body would be telling you this as well.

Current unemployment in NZ forestry

Forestry -industry

Currently, we have 152,000 people unemployed (4.9%)—the lowest it has been for the last six months and the second-lowest number in the last eight years.

How do you analyse unemployment, what does it mean, and how do they calculate the numbers? What is the cut-off point that it would get to when the percentage has reached an all-time low and all that is left are those who will never work?

It is a fact we will never have zero unemployment. It is unthinkable that this country will never ever have a full employment for everyone. Are New Zealand people becoming lazy?

Kiwis of old were sought-after, especially when travelling to Australia, recognised as hard workers, and were quickly snapped up into the workforce. How many possible workers will never pass a drug test? And there will always be those who just do not want to work.

I have spent time over the last couple of months delivering fuel into the logging contractors in Northland, and while fuelling up their tanks, I got into a conversation with one logger and we discussed the problem.

Here’s a thought—with all the publicity around logging and how dangerous the job is, can you imagine your siblings getting ready to leave school and they come home and say, "Mom, I have left school and I am going to go work in the bush."

I can relate to this, as my oldest son did exactly that and he was told he could do better than that. I had no say in the matter, and I can still hear his reply: "If it is good enough for my Dad, it is good enough for me."

So that was that and 25 years later, the he and his brother have made a career out of logging and do it well running their own extensive logging operation.

Politicians and school not helping

The politicians are not helping. There was more on the news about safety reviews and how they are going to weed out rogue and unscrupulous loggers from the industry.

How can you weed these guys out if there is a forestry owner out here giving them work? Now that we have introduced mechanisation to a large percentage of logging in New Zealand, the physical side has diminished significantly. What was once considered hard physical work is not such an issue any more.

Maybe that is what is putting off new workers from entering the logging industry when there are other options available.

Many young fellas went into the bush because they just did not do well at school. They were big and strong, smart and clever, but they just did not pass the exam at school, so it was so easy just to go into the bush.

In today’s world, all kids have equal opportunities at school. They start working with computers from day one. If nothing else, by the time they have gone through the school system, they will all leave with some degree of technical expertise, just enough to look at alternatives to the logging industry.

The health and safety laws have been necessary to reduce the number of deaths in all our physical labour jobs across the land, but is this now starting to backfire on us with all the publicity around the dangers of these jobs. Why would you want to work in any dangerous industry? How do we get young people interested in logging?

The future of NZ logging

Our trees are going to continue to grow, the logging industry is here to stay, but without a workforce, we do not have an industry. Taking on a green horn in your crew is a huge risk, as under our health and safety laws, we are all responsible for each other’s safety.

If you have a good crew culture, this should not be a problem, as most experienced loggers will help the younger worker if he shows a positive attitude and is keen to make the grade.

Contractors providing employment have a positive impact on the individual by providing him with an income, job satisfaction, and to be able to provide for his family.

As an employer, there is great satisfaction when those who work for you do well in their private lives as well.

When your employees start buying new cars, purchasing their own home are all positives. There is no doubt that being employed has a positive effect on the workforce.

The more unemployment we have, higher is the risk of poverty and consequent social exclusion.

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