Forestry safety should be a multi-level responsibility - Uncle to Piri Bartlett

By Talisa Kupenga

The forestry industry is an opportunity to bring employment and prosperity to the East Coast, and while this will continue for years to come, the death of a 23-year-old father Te Oho Mauri Piripi has prompted calls for all industry tiers, including land shareholders, to be responsible for worker safety.

Piri Bartlett is the second life lost for his family in a year while working for the forestry sector.

Family spokesperson Campbell Dewes says, "It’s a huge loss because despite his age, he was a strong leader and it’s a shame he didn’t get the chance to reach his full potential."

Dewes, also the chairman of a family-owned forest block, says the onus for worker safety should stretch from those on the ground to the top tier levels and extend to land shareholders.

“Yes [it should]. If the shareholders direct us to represent them and take this to all involved in harvesting our pine trees, then of course we will do that."

The issue was raised at Māori Television's Elections Leaders Debate last night with Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell sharing his thoughts.

"Radioing in your position right through to being on deck that's taken care of but I just saw in the newspaper today another death on the coast. So have we got it right? I don't think so, but the industry has been addressing it."

Labour's deputy leader Kelvin Davis taking a similar stance to Dewes.

"Shareholders who don't have any skin in the game other than they're up here, they're putting pressure on the contractors to actually do more work and work harder and faster and if some of the responsibility fell on those people right at the top, then we might see a bit more safety."

Piri arrived at Te Araroa this afternoon.