With more than NZ$3 billion worth of exports annually, forestry is New Zealand’s third largest industry. In fact, it is one of only a few industries in which New Zealand has a unique competitive advantage – we grow softwood trees quicker and more efficiently than any other country in the world.
While forestry comes in all different shapes and sizes, there are key skills that are always in high demand and will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future. No one knows this better than Waa Owens, Director of Turangi-based Te Waa Logging.
“Being familiar with all the parts, functions and controls of the machinery we use is really important and these are skills that are becoming more in demand as the industry grows and evolves,” says Waa.
Te Waa Logging has partnered with Toi Ohomai on our forestry operations courses to ensure that the quality of candidates they receive are of the highest calibre, but also to give students who want to work in forestry the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a real-life forestry operations environment.
“By partnering with Toi Ohomai, we can make sure that the course delivers what we want from the students and we are able to work with changing and evolving industry needs, such as the transition of the machines from manual to being fully mechanised.
“It’s not always the easiest thing to train out on the job, so with this partnership we know our future machine operators are able to train on the simulators, which teach them the skills and give them the units they need to be able to go out into the field, without the logistical challenges that may come with training them on site,” says Waa.
The relationship between Toi Ohomai and the Owens family business goes back 15 years and is built on a solid relationship between the Toi Ohomai tutors and Te Waa Logging.
“The relationship between the tutors and us as the employer has been very positive, which is key to our partnership’s success. We have a long history with the Institute, going as far back as 1990, when I started as a trainer in the Toi Ohomai (then Waiariki) Practical Logging course, before becoming a thinnings contractor under New Zealand Forest Managers. Now, we are ready to train the next generation,” says Les Owens, Director of Te Waa Logging.
Te Waa Logging currently has four Toi Ohomai students in training programmes, who are now learning to apply their skills in the field.
One of these apprentices is Waa’s son, Manawa Owens, who aspires to continue the family forestry legacy.
“I have always been in and out of the bush, going out to work with my koro Les and dad, or to go pig hunting, so I always knew that this is where I wanted to be. Doing the Toi Ohomai course has enabled me to get out on the job to operate the machines - I found it to be a really hands-on, positive learning environment,” says Manawa.
With a total of 17 crew members currently on various sites, Waa says that they are very particular about choosing the right candidates for the job.
“We always look for a good attitude, first and foremost, besides the other basic requirements you need to operate machinery, which is why we’ve partnered with Toi Ohomai to ensure that we get the staff we want.”
Te Waa Logging started with a three-man crew in 1993. Besides strategic partnerships like the one they have with Toi Ohomai, the key to their success is in the family-oriented company culture, as well as their focus on having a positive social and economic impact.
“Most of our employees are locals and we would like to continue supporting our local communities. This is so much easier through our partnerships, as we have an opportunity to help mould successful future employees who have the technical expertise, as well as the right attitude to join our operation,” concludes Waa.