Industry collaboration: the key to forestry success

June 24, 2024

The old saying ‘it takes a village’ is a fitting catchphrase for forestry harvesting apprentice Alazae Hayes.

Now blazing a trail at Vanner Logging, Alazae’s success has been a collective effort, with Rotomā No.1 Incorporation, Timberlands and Competenz all playing an integral role.

“I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come,” says the21-year-old from Rotorua. “Back in high school, I was making trouble and doingdumb stuff, but now I’ve got a good job, life goals, and I’ve accomplished somereally cool things.”

A free pruning and planting course with Rotomā No. 1 Incorporation proved the perfect springboard, opening the door to a life changing apprenticeship for Alazae.

“I always loved being outdoors - riding dirt bikes and stuff like that – but as a kid, working in forestry wasn’t something I’d ever considered. Last year though, I did the Rotomā No. 1 course, and through that, I got my first aid certificate, my forklift license, my working at heights ticket, site safety and my wheels, tracks and rollers endorsement. We spent the first part of the course in the classroom and then they chucked us in the bush. That’s when I decided I wanted a career in forestry.”

Competenz Training Advisor Hamish Gunn was marking off the book work in the programme, and after noticing Alazae’s potential he decided to give him some more industry exposure.

“Hamish took me and another guy out to visit Kaingaroa Forest to check out a couple of harvesting crews. I was introduced to the Vanner Logging foreman and in-house assessor Conrad ‘Chopper’ Mill, and on his recommendation to the crew owners, got offered a job!”

For Vanner Logging owners Brett and Heather Vanner, Alazae was just what they were looking for.

“Brett and I have been in the logging business for 15 years and right from the start we’ve been looking for people with potential, people who are keen to progress. They may have zero forestry knowledge, but they’re enthusiastic, keen outdoor types who don’t mind getting their hands dirty.”

Alazae fits the criteria perfectly.

“Recruitment is always a battle in forestry, firstly because it’s a very skilled job andsecondly because we have an ageing workforce,” says Heather.

“He was exactly what we wanted. We thought to ourselves ‘thisyoung man could have potential’, and boy were we right.”

Since starting with the company in December 2023, Alazae has gone from strength to strength. After a month on the chainsaw marking and grading logs, he was enrolled into an apprenticeship with Competenz, and Kaingaroa Timberlands - managers of the largest plantation forest in the Southern Hemisphere - awarded Vanner Logging a generous scholarship to help with his training. Now Alazae is living the dream, driving big machines (he’s currently on a skidder) and making excellent progress on his journey to becoming an operator in log loading and mechanised processing.

Alazae says, “Vanner Logging is a marvellous company to work for; they’re helpful, encouraging, and go out of their way to get you anything you need. Plus working with Chopper is really inspirational - he’s only 29 and he already oversees two crews, owns two machines and his own house. Chopper assesses most of my practical and bookwork, and Hamish from Competenz also helps me out when I need it. He’s worked in forestry for years, so he knows his stuff. If I get stuck, I can just give him a call.”

This strong network of industry partners ensures Alazae has all the support he needs to thrive, and Hamish believes it’s this proactive collaboration that is the secret to success – not just for apprentices like Alazae, but for the industry as a whole.

“No one single part of the equation has all the answers - working closely together and recognising the role each party plays is the key,” says Hamish.  “From Alazae’s forestry course with Rotomā No 1 Inc, where a holistic approach to the wellbeing of learners is embraced along with quality outcomes, to a proactive forest owner in Timberlands who actively support new workers into their estate, to an employer that is prepared to invest the critical time and resources into quality hands-on training - to the support Competenz can offer in working with employers and trainees to set up training plans, support assessors and ensure quality outcomes.  Everybody has a part to play.”