Logging manager fears the worst as workmates face massive cutbacks

updated By Taroi Black

Tairāwhiti gets first dibs of the tranche of $100 million announced by the Government to support the redeployment of laid-off workers.

Especially for a Tolaga Bay logging business who are facing massive cutbacks next week.

A tranche of $28 million from the relief package will go to Tairāwhiti as almost 300 forestry workers have been out of mahi.

Forestry is one of the main industries in Tairāwhiti, which came to a standstill when exports from China were blocked due to Coronavirus.

Alternative jobs for Tāirawhiti forestry workers include; local roadworks such as maintenance, hazardous tree removal, fast-tracked One Billion Trees projects, conservation activities, retraining and educational opportunities. 

However, Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford leading the redeployment of these COVID-19-affected workers couldn't confirm when the relief package will roll out for whānau on the coast.

“Within a week we will expect to have the contracts signed for these projects and shortly after that we would have boots on the ground and people working.”

Les White at Eastland Port, Gisborne. Source/File

Foreman/Manager Les White for Lumberjack Logging LTD fears the worst as his respected workmates will be out of mahi starting next week.

Alongside the owner of the business, he attended the announcement because all of their nine contractors will be laid off.

“See them more than your actual family so yeah I think the shutting down of our crews and having to not work with them again is the ratsh*t part,” White says.

“We'll do anything to keep going so as long as we're employed and that wage subsidy will help our boss out with paying us.” 

In 2018, the Coalition Government said they would invest $152.7 million from the Provincial Growth funds into Tairāwhiti, but to date, they are still waiting.

Government Ministers and Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz. Source/File.

Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is committed to back workers in order to keep the sector intact including fulfilling his ambition of planting One Billion Trees nationwide.

“We will allocate 100 jobs towards Ruatoria for those who are interested. Part of my problem I must tell you whenever we work with our Maori landowners there are always additional complications because of the ownership structure of our land,” Minister Jones says.

Today’s announcement, however, will see the Tairāwhiti package be administered through the Provincial Development Unit in partnership with 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.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson also travelled to Tūranganui a Kiwa in response to the relief package. He wants to ensure training, transport, administration assurance and other projects related services are sorted through and through.

“We want to make sure the help we are providing is getting to the people and businesses who need it the most,” Minister Jackson says.