Tairāwhiti forestry workers run 55kms as they face challenging times

By Taroi Black

Forestry workers feeling the pinch of COVID-19 are backing each other right to the end, running from Tūranganui a Kiwa to Tolaga Bay to promote hauora, wellbeing and mental health.

The six hour relay run ‘Jogging for Logging’ was created by Wade Brunt to improve the health of his forestry workmates, an initiative backed by Safetree’s programme Toroawhi.

“The last four weeks have been pretty stressful, a few guys out of work. It’s been good to get together and train and talk and share what’s going on,” Brunt says.

More than 30 runners took charge in the run that includes fathers, mothers and their kids, which began in the early hours of the morning from Eastland Port, Tūranganui a Kiwa (Gisborne) and ends at the famous wharf of Uawa (Tolaga Bay).

Some of the runners who work in the forestry industry have reduced hours, but the purpose of this programme is to keep them motivated and valued.

Wade Brunt leading the group of runners. Photo / File

Brunt told Te Ao Māori News his 18 years in the industry was mixed with tough times, so he also designed an 8-week health camp to help others in the industry to improve their physical and mental health.

Atahere Cameron, who is a loader operator and has worked for the past 15 years, lost 15kgs through the 8-week programme.

“It’s a milestone for me, probably a big run for me, and all the kilos I put on too but put a bit of work into it and it's been good,” Cameron says.

The kaupapa is also a positive output for work safety and performance, as seven work-related fatalities occurred last year nationwide.

CEO Eastland Wood Council Kim Holland running alongside forestry workers. Photo / File 

Eastland Wood Council CEO Kim Holland also showed interest in the initiative showing her tautoko by being part of the run.

“They know that they are not alone, they are all in it together and so is the whānau and it’s just so valuable and important,” Holland says.

Recent Govt announcement:

The government yesterday announced that Tairāwhiti would get first dibs of the tranche of $100 million to support the redeployment of laid-off workers.

A sum 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 Tairāwhiti forestry workers include local roadworks such as maintenance, hazardous tree removal, fast-tracked One Billion Trees projects, conservation activities, retraining and educational opportunities.