Reflecting on the past

By: Patrick Cox


For everyone who has been following Deals on Wheels forestry comment column, here's a recap on how it all began

Around five-and-a-half years ago, I was selling Volvo construction equipment for Transdiesel and happened to be spending the night at the Northerner Motor Inn at Kaitaia. My signposted Mitsubishi with Transdiesel labels all over it was parked outside. I ventured into the bar and restaurant for an evening meal.

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The pub was not crowded, with just five people in for dinner. I was enjoying my own company when I was interrupted by a big moustached guy who walked into the restaurant and asked who was with Transdiesel. As nobody put their hand up, I had to admit it was me.

A short conversation with Mr Moustache ended with him asking me if I could write. Having left college at 15 and not finishing my three years secondary school and getting eight out of a 100 in the mid-year exams for English, what did I have to lose? So I signed up for it.

To be fair, over the years, it is something I have developed, having gone back to Poly Tech to gain my National Diploma in Real Estate. Yes, I am still a fully licensed Real Estate Agent, but writing is in the blood, as Dad wrote some amazing poetry of his time as an English solider during the Second World War and living in New Zealand.

Anyway, back to Mr Moustache’s deal: write an article for free, submit it to them, and if it was good, they would publish it and would start paying for the following one. 

I agreed but had some concerns about any backlash from the first article ‘Track Guards—why do we need them’, so I asked Mr Moustache to not publish my name.

However, the article came out and had my name splashed all over it. I was quick to pick up the phone to call the editor—Randolph aka Mr Moustache—but my fears were unfounded, as no hitman was contracted to take me out. That was back in the 220s [Issue 221 to be exact – Ed] and here we are at 300.

Over the years, I have met many interesting people and one that comes to mind was Phil McKenzie from CablePrice Whangarei. He was, after all, my competition while working for Transdiesel. It’s hard case how you judge people by hearsay and what they looked like. I had a chance meeting with Phil at the inaugural meeting for the logger’s awards in Northland and asked him if he would mind if I did an article on him. Like most, he was first gun-shy but eventually agreed.

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While researching the article, I was blown away by Phil’s background: what he had done and where he came from, his knowledge of machinery, and his ability as an operator was something I did not expect. How often are we guilty of judging a book by its cover. 

I was caught in a similar situation but on the other side of the spectrum when I wrote an article on getting a driver’s license and suggested that in today’s world, learners are taught to pass not to drive. In this case, we received an emotional response from one young reader, who put his case forward.

All his points were valid, but if he had stopped and thought about what I had said, he would have realised that once you have your learner’s license, it is a license to go out on the highway and learn to drive. We all know we share the road today with many drivers who are still on their restricted and have been for years. The blunt truth is they have not passed their full license test.

I’ve spent a lifetime in logging. I’ve been part of the logging industry since 1972, driving the old Leyland Hippo for Stan Williamson out of Te Puke. Then I ventured into the bush in 1973 as a crosscutter, which was followed by owning my own logging company for a number of years.

As I grew older, I watched my sons build a successful logging company—Cox Forestry Services—in the Hawke’s Bay and Coromandel. What I find interesting now with technology is that many younger people cannot adapt to working without phone, RT Radio, and all the aids that they require to do the job. They do not have the experience of having worked without all the technological equipment and do not know how to improvise.

I came across a couple of signs the other day just reminding drivers and all who enter the property on the rules: First one was, ‘Warning, other road users may not be radio equipped, drive with care‘ and straight after that was ‘Drive to the conditions, not the RT’.

When writing on certain subjects, the views and opinions are solely mine and are expressed to bring to light some of the loggers’ subjects that they find hard to talk about or are frightened of what might be repercussions from forest owners and the like. Last month, I covered the topic of logging apprenticeships and we still have a long way to go with this.

The topic also ignited the thoughts of Murray Smith from the Institute of Quarrying Northland. There industry is facing the problem of recognition; they can acquire A or B grade ticket for quarrying, but there is nothing for apprenticeships and no official body to recognise them just like the logging industry.

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We are all on the health and safety bandwagon and so we should be. There is a glaring problem with the new laws. It is the only law in this country where if you are deemed guilty, you have no right to defend yourself. If a WorkSafe inspector presses charges against you, you are advised to plead guilty, pay the fine and move on.

Sorry, but this is absolute bullying by the government. With any law, when charged, you have the right to defend yourself, and it will be the judge’s decision to determine who is at fault or guilty.

With workplace law, we have got it wrong, as everyone is guilty. We need to be able to defend ourselves. Until that happens, there are millions of dollars going into the Government coffers as another form of tax.

I’d like to end on a personal note. To Randolph and Deals on Wheels and all the readers, thank you. When I left school, never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would end up writing about a subject I am passionate about.

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