Growing leadership skills in forestry

27 March 2018

Whakatane’s Terry Sanson is one of the first forest workers to go through a unique course to upskill and provide future opportunities for forestry crews.

Sanson, who got into forestry at the age of 14, is a silviculture specialist for Whakatane contracting company Tane Mahuta Forestry. He is one of 67 crew leaders or potential crew leaders who has received his Forest Industry Operations (Planning and Monitoring) NZ Certificate Level 4, thanks to a new initiative by Rayonier Matariki Forests. 

The forestry company worked with its contractors and Competenz, the industry training organisation for the forestry industry, to develop a training programme which would focus on leadership training and safety.

Rayonier Matariki Forests Bay of Plenty manager Andy Warren said the training was not only a way the company could support learning and professional growth within the industry but it also served to keep the focus on safety and improve processes.

“We know that while there are a lot of highly skilled forestry workers, there are also those that need to formalise their experience. We wanted to provide opportunities for crew members to progress their careers so we worked with Competenz to deliver a course for operational, technical and leadership training. This is the first stage in a process that will identify and lift leaders’ abilities to enable them to not only operate safely and productively but will enhance their prospects and career pathway,” he said.

Sanson, who is a crew foreman and now 32, followed his grandfather into the industry and said he feels privileged to have learned from the best.

“I always wanted to get into working and be independent. Growing up on a farm, I love the outdoors and the physical nature of the work. I started out by pruning small farm blocks in the area and then travelled around New Zealand with different jobs. I even ended up in Australia felling gum trees, all the time learning from highly experienced guys,” he said.

“This opportunity is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. To be able to fill in the gaps and grow my leadership skills means I can pass on my knowledge and teach the up and coming forest workers.” 

Sanson has his eyes firmly fixed on the future with plans to have his own contracting business – something he has wanted since he was 16 years old.

His employer Simon Geddes, owner of Tane Mahuta Forestry, said this initiative was the first of its kind. 

“While we encourage our workers to continue with their training and development, this is the first time a forestry company has specifically developed training to improve the work and lives of our guys – and pay for it,” Geddes said.

“This is a very strong part of Tane Mahuta’s culture – to upskill our rangatahi to work on their whenua. There are a lot of highly skilled jobs in forestry and having such a proactive approach to growing individual’s confidence and skills will have a massive benefit to the whole industry.”

Find out more about Competenz siviculture qualifications

This article first appeared in the Whakatane Beacon.  

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