Developing understanding about forestry sector
Erica Kinder is relishing her role as CEO of one of New Zealand’s largest Forestry Wood Council regions. Southern North Island Wood Council extends its activity over an area from Taranaki in the West through to the East Coast, Manawatu down to Wellington.
Since taking up the role 18 months ago, a focus for Erica has been to outreach to the community and particularly to schools about the role of forestry and the diverse range of skilled employment op-portunities the sector presents.
“Our core purpose is to provide a non-compet-itive platform for our members to come together to advance the forestry sector they operate in. It would be true to say that historically there has been a lack of understanding beyond the sector as to what forestry is all about and one of the areas I am focusing on is outreach into communities to change that,” says Erica.
As an example, one initiative that has created real momentum is to show primary school children just what forestry is. It’s an is olated activity that even teachers don’t have a great understanding of the sector. Last year SNIWC started a new pro-gramme called Share The Road where a fully loaded logging truck visits a school, giving students and teachers alike an opportunity to get up close.
“We stay for the day and do sessions around safety, showing the children the blind spots on a truck. We particularly target schools in an area where active forestry is taking place.
“We talk about the forests and where they have come from. It’s amazing how little the children know. They think we just cut down trees, but really we are forest farmers, planting and looking after them.”
Erica says that one of the key focuses for her and the Wood Council generally is to break down misin-formation about what forestry is and she says this is especially critical in secondary schools, where students are beginning to look at career options.
“Mechanisation is massive in the industry now. Working in forests isn’t any longer about a man on the ground with a chainsaw. ‘The harvesting process is handled by really sophisticated machinery, needing operators with fi ne motor skills and clever heads.”
She has been surprised to see that the issue about getting the real message through to students is more about educating teachers who themselves have preconceived ideas about what goes on in the forest.
“We’ve found students are actually really keen to learn about forestry and to consider it as a viable career path, it’s getting the message through to teachers that is our concern.”
There is also a lot of activity industry and region wide over advancing research and development and this is funded through the logging levy applied to every log exported as Erica explains.“The levy is administered by the Forest Growers Levy Trust and the funds are used in ways to advance the sector.
This funding has been critical to achieving major developments on a number of fronts.”Each of the seven Wood Council regions has a different focus of activity and goals to achieve for the sector they represent and overall this creates a wide range of areas of advancement for the whole industry.
Erica has been pleased to see a real uptake in interest in another initiative ‘The Big Day Out’, where senior secondary school students and teachers spend a day in the forest, seeing first-hand all the activities that take place.
“This has been wonderful. We’ve had really strong interest from Feilding High School and next year other schools have indicated they want to get involved.”
\One of the challenges facing forestry stake-holders is to break down the rift that has grown between farming organisations such as Federated Farmers, with respect to the growth in forestry driven by the Government-backed Emissions Trading Scheme and the push to plant a billion trees.
“There is a big fear in rural communities and it is hard for people to change but the fact is New Zealand has always evolved its land farming forms.
“Once the country was covered in bush, then opened up for dairy and dry stock farming, then horticulture has changed the landscape again. We see ourselves as farmers of trees.”She says the Wood Council very much wants to break down a “Them and Us” mentality.
“Next year we’re inviting all agricultural stake-holders and organisation like Federated Farmers to the National Institute of Forestry Conference, where we will present the real facts and realities of the benefi ts forestry brings. “We will hear and answer their concerns and try to break down barriers.”
As for Erica, she says it’s a delight working for her bBoard who have given her every opportunity to grow the role and take the organisation, based in Masterton into new and meaningful directions.
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