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NZ battles COVID-19 and has forestry package ready

Phil Taylor

The Forest Owners Association is backing the government’s strategy to combat COVID-19 as just about all parts of the forest industry are now in shut-down. President Phil Taylor says the FOA appreciates the government’s difficulties in working in great haste to protect people against the virus and deciding which activities are essential. Source: Timberbiz

“Right from the outset of this crisis, we indicated we wanted to work with the government officials and ministers, to be part of New Zealand’s response to the economic and public health threat.

“We are working closely with the Forest Ministry, Te Uru Rākau, on how we support the government’s strategy by rapidly transitioning out of our exporting, for the time being, and minimising the work we do in our forests for as long as is necessary,” Phil Taylor said.

“We expect all of our members will be doing everything they can to keep themselves safe and so keep others safe.”

The New Zealand Government will spend NZ$100 million redeploying forestry workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The forestry industry on the East Coast has been hit hard by the coronavirus because of supply chain disruption in China. Many of the country’s logging crews are unable to work as a result.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced the funding. Minister Twyford said COVID-19 has had a “significant” impact on workers throughout New Zealand, but acknowledged that forestry workers in Gisborne have been the hardest hit.

“Our Government is moving quickly to help people stay in work through a NZ$100 million package which will see workers redeployed into local alternative employment for the next three to six months. Of this funding, NZ$28 million will go to Tairāwhiti [Gisborne] to help redeploy almost 300 workers.

“Forestry was one of the first industries to be seriously impacted by COVID-19 but by keeping the infrastructure and workforce of the sector intact, we hope it will be one of the first to recover,” Twyford said.

Minister Jones said the forestry industry, which is responsible for 6.7% of regional GDP, is still recovering from a “slow-down” last winter. “Many small firms used their cash reserves to get them through that and some companies are now struggling to survive.

“However, the future for the forestry sector is extremely bright and we want to ensure it is in a position to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 as quickly as possible. By redeploying workers to short-term projects, we can help ensure they are available to go back to the forestry sector once it returns to normal,” Jones said.

Minister Jackson said the package includes training, transport, administration, assurance and other project-related services. Alternative work identified for Tairāwhiti forestry workers includes:

  • local roading work, including road maintenance
  • hazardous tree removal
  • fast-tracked One Billion Trees projects
  • conservation activities
  • retraining and educational opportunities.

The money will be administered by the Provincial Development Unit, the Mayors’ Forum and Gisborne District Council. Affected workers will be referred via the Ministry of Social Development’s Rapid Response Team and affected businesses.