27 July 2015
For many, working in the forestry industry isn’t the most glamourous of jobs, but for Stormy Merritt it’s a way of life. In this male-dominated industry, the 24-year-old has worked her way up from helping out her father on logging sites, to now managing a number of logging crews in Gisborne for softwood plantation company, Ernslaw One Ltd.
“There are only a few women who work in my office and they work in administration roles,” she says. “They don’t go out into the bush, I’m the only one.”
Working in the forestry industry runs in the family. Her father, Turoa Merritt, runs a logging gang and has a harvesting contract in the Mangatu Forest with Ernslaw One, just outside of Gisborne.
“It didn’t really bother me being the only female worker, but I suppose it was different for me because I was working for my dad. Most of dad’s employees are family as well, so it was good.”
Starting off working on logging sites when she was 17 years old, Stormy took the unconventional route into her current career.
“I don’t know of anyone who’s done what I’ve done and started in the logging industry and then moved into forestry management. I was supposed to be doing all the paperwork and administration for dad but I didn’t really like doing it so I started doing everything I wasn’t supposed to do,” she says.
“I started off doing what the boys did like log-making, and then I slowly started using a saw. For me it was about doing as much as I could and learning from different people.”
Before her current supervisor role at Ernslaw One Ltd, Stormy worked as a foreman operator in the logging industry.
“Before I got pregnant I was managing a number of logging crews, but at the moment I’m doing administration until I go onto maternity leave.”
In 2011, Stormy won the FITEC (now Competenz) Modern Apprentice of the Year award which created a buzz around the young forestry worker.
“Country Calendar came up and filmed me for a couple of days. It was pretty overwhelming. I had Close Up come up to film me as well.”
Proud of her Māori roots, she says she sees a lot of Māori and Pasifika people working in the logging industry and in management roles.
“For Ernslaw, most of our forest operations managers are Māori,” she says. “It would be great to see more Māori and Pasifika people having great careers in the forestry industry.”
Due with her first child in 13 weeks, Stormy is open to all opportunities in her career.
“I’ll pick up any opportunities as they come, but otherwise, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”