22 October 2015
Competenz account manager Russell Riley was born and bred in Golden Bay. He grew up on a dairy farm in Rockville, Nelson. After completing a forestry course at Nelson Polytechnic in 1991, Russell was offered a job in a Baigent’s hauler crew. Over the next 19 years he had several jobs in the forestry industry. In 2010, Russell worked at the Forest Industries Training and Education Council (FITEC), now known as Competenz. He then moved to Feilding as it was more convenient to travel to his clients. Russell is married with three young children.
What’s a typical day on the job?
Clients and assessors can start calling from 6am onwards, so I am normally up early getting some administration prepared or getting ready to hit the road to visit a crew. I normally try to be home by 5pm so I can have dinner with the family and spend some time with the kids before they go off to bed. After 7pm I often get calls from clients who have been in the bush all day.
What are the challenges?
One of the main challenges is working within set regulations while still helping clients as much as possible.
How has the industry changed?
Mechanisation has been one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed. I was lucky to work in crews earlier on where job rotation was an integral part of an operation. It would be great to see more crews doing this more often.
What do you wish people knew about forestry?
New Zealand forestry is nothing like the American show Axemen.
What surprises you most about forestry?
I’ve always been intrigued by new techniques used in the bush. There’s always something new to learn.
What is the outlook of health and safety in the forestry industry, particularly with the new health and safety laws soon coming into play?
The outlook for the forest industry is good. However, I feel other industries should be worried. The recent lobbying to weaken the proposed Act showed how fear of the unknown by many industries will still allow unnecessary risks for those employees who should be protected. The forestry industry however just says bring it on! We’re happy to work with the regulators to ensure everyone comes home every day.
What would most people be surprised to know about you?
Why my bush nickname was Gunsmoke. I guess you had to be there.