Southland forestry family prove you’re never too old to learn – Father and son graduate together

Baird 7235

25 August 2021

It was a special moment at the recent Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards ceremony when father and son duo, Robert and Bobby Baird, took to the stage to receive their forestry qualifications.

Both Robert and his son Bobby completed their qualifications with transitional industry training organisation Competenz, gaining a New Zealand Certificate in Forest Harvesting – Level 4.

Based in Otautau in Western Southland, Bobby owns Baird Logging, which employs six staff - including Robert – processing 480 to 600 tonnes of logs every day. Vocational training is something Bobby encourages and supports every one of his crew to undertake.

“We’re a fully mechanised logging crew and process all of our logs in the bush,” explains Bobby. “Getting an industry qualification is important for my team as while they already know the practical aspects of their jobs, they get to learn the theory behind their roles. It’s rewarding.”

Enrolling in a Competenz qualification was a chance for Bobby to lead by example, being able to share his knowledge with his crew. His father Robert, who is nearing retirement and has worked in the forestry industry for 40 years, took little convincing to also enrol to study.

“He didn’t need any persuading,” says Bobby. “Making sure he got the study done was the biggest thing. And for me too. When you’re travelling three days a week it’s quite hard to find time to study. But Competenz assessors Phil and Neville and training advisor Ross made the whole process so easy – they helped make it happen. They supported us all 100%. They’d come out to the bush and have a catch up and advise us what book work or practical training we needed to focus on.”

Robert says wryly that putting pen to paper “can take a while”. “The younger guys helped me along with the bookwork. I found it not too bad with all my experience – I’ve done forestry ever since I left school. Doing the qualification was a good learning curve and helps Bobby, in that his entire team is qualified. It keeps everything hunky-dory.”

“They’re a great crew,” says Bobby. “Everyone gets on with the job and I don’t have to manage them – they know what they’re doing. They do it on the daily. I just check in and see that they’re ok with everything. It’s busy but it’s become a way of life.”

While Robert has practical experience gained during four decades in the bush, he says vocational training like the qualification he has just done is helping keep people safe.

“When I started out in the industry there was nothing like this training. People were getting hurt. Training and putting people on courses improves safety – it helps people understand the dangers. Some of the younger guys raise their eyebrows when I tell them the stories about the old-timers!”

Competenz assessor Neville Muir worked with Bairds throughout their training programme. 

“Bobby is very driven to succeed and very organised. He’s also very keen to continue upskilling his crew and there are a lot of different certificates still to do,” he says.

Robert is quick to agree. “Bobby’s got the best work ethic I’ve ever seen,” he says. “He’s very safety conscious and won’t ask the boys do anything he won’t do himself. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

While Bobby is his boss at work, Robert turns back into ‘dad’ at the end of the day. “I give him a hand during the day when he’s got a lot of work on. We have a great relationship and it’s a magic thing to be able to do to work with your son.”