East Coast forestry gets ready to redeploy hundreds of out-of-work contractors

With Gisborne Port packed to capacity, there's plenty of logs but not a lot of work left.

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The Government wants to redeploy hundreds of workers to other industries now crying out for staff. Source: 1 NEWS

Forestry contractor Les White will be out of a job from next week as harvesting work slows to a stop.

“Biggest thing for me is I hope to keep things going really, to pay the mortgage and provide for my family.”

Business Lumberjack Logging is having to let go of its logging crews as demand dries up amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t do anything about it. We are just looking for a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel but we are no different to six other haulers in the region in the last month.” Dan Herries told 1 NEWS.

Around 300 East Coast forestry workers are now set for re-deployment.

The Government is committing $27 million to revitalise the region, fast-tracking conservation and roading work, as well as tree planting projects.

“Instead of sitting at home on the couch, forestry workers are going to be doing real jobs and getting paid real money. We brought forward a range of projects so their skills will be used,” Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford announced in Gisborne today.

A new $13 million wood processing plant will be built too, through a loan from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones says the industry needs to diversify away from being reliant on Chinese log exports, which grounded to a halt as China was shut down by Covid-19.

“We're going to have to change the way we live and we are going to have to tolerate a lot of handicaps to our way of life and that's hard for us as Māori - it's a big call-out to all the Tairawhiti leadership - the old game is over.”

However, 90 per cent of the Forestry Contractors Association's members are outside of the Gisborne region.

Chief executive Prue Younger says the support for those members is coming too late and some could have to close down.

“I know they are going to try and hold on for as long as they can but at the moment we need to be softening their challenge with winding up businesses.”

Mr Twyford urged other regions with failing workforces to get thinking.

“I’m inviting regions from around the country to  come to us with creative solutions like what we are announcing in Tairawhiti for other parts of the country.”

The new jobs for Tairawhiti's workers begin next week, helping bridge a gap in the ever-changing economic situation.