Inaugural awards celebrate region’s forestry industry

Friday 19 Aug 2022

New Zealand’s largest forestry region celebrated its workers this week with the inaugural Central North Island Wood Council Awards. MC Pio Terei kept the 450 strong crowd at the Energy Centre Rotorua formal dinner bubbling along as the heroes of the region were toasted for their professionalism, dedication and effort.

It’s the last region in the country to establish awards but sports a real point of difference with quite different categories, including forest engineering, best native forest enterprise and best farm forester. The Generation Programme, which creates a pathway and training for those keen to get into the industry, was also celebrated.

Fast Harvesting showed their class, winning four categories – the South Waikato Investment Fund Trust-sponsored Silvicultural Excellence Award, the Taumata Plantations Ltd sponsored outstanding health and safety management award, the Timberlands sponsored Female in Forestry, and the Competenz Trainee of the Year Award.

Taking out the First Security sponsored Hero of the Year was Leesa Haimona (Timberlands), with Lorraine Uatuku (Fast Harvesting) the runner-up. Those who know Leesa says her community involvement and promotion of the industry is exemplary. Her passion and knowledge of tikanga, her openness to be approached about anything health and safety related, and understanding of systems and rules, is second-to-none.

She has taken Timberlands health and safety standards to a whole new level. Mereana Tobenhouse from Fast Harvesting was honoured as the Female in Forestry Award winner. She started in logging as an apprentice in 2001, working in skid crosscutting and quality control. Since those early days, she has progressed into operating skidders, haulers and mechanised processing machines, with a keen focus on health and safety.

She runs a tight ship for Fast Harvesting as their health and safety coordinator, general operational support, and fill-in processor operator and crew foreman. She represented the company on the Safetree Technical Advisory Group and is on the Central North Island Health and Safety Forum Committee.

Running alongside her busy career are her four children and sport. She’s a former New Zealand softball representative, has competed in the World Masters Games, and until recently coached junior level local teams. She’s described as one who is never afraid to roll up her sleeves, and as a shining light to other women in the forestry industry.

Te Waa Logging took out the Wildlands-sponsored Best Native Forestry Enterprise Award. This is a company known to walk its talk. Led by Waa Owens, its focus is all about the community and ensuring the natural and cultural values of any whenua being restored, are understood, protected and respected. Their meticulous work ensures only targeted species are controlled with no damage to existing native flora and fauna.

The wilding controlling team is proactive in its cultural obligations, respecting the whenua, engaging with hapū, iwi and landowners.

The Central North Island Wood Council has been going for less than two years but is already making great headway.

The Winners:

Training excellence, Generation Programme Graduate of the Year (sponsored by South Waikato District Council): Rawiri Te Hiko (Brown Logging Ltd). Excellence awards: Connor Wallace and Olive Williams.

Trainee of the Year (sponsored by Competenz): Jayme Walker (Fast Harvesting).

Skilled professionals; Silvicultural Excellence (sponsored South Waikato Investment Fund Trust) : Glenn Fountaine (Fast Harvesting) .

Forest Protection and Services Excellence (sponsored by Scion): Evan Rarere (Timberlands).

Harvesting Excellence (sponsored by Manulife Investment Management): Rob Davy (G White Logging Ltd).

Distribution Excellence (sponsored by RFH): Jody Reti (Trimble Forestry).

Log Processing Excellence (sponsored by AB Equipment/Tigercat): Desmond Williams (Progressive Harvesting). Runner-up: David Hatcher (Fast Harvesting).

Log Truck Driver Excellence (sponsored by Patchell): Raymond Bradshaw (Aztec FTD) . Runner-up: Josh Fisher (Green Transport Ltd).

Forest Engineering Excellence (sponsored by Ontario Teachers/Manulife): Campbell and RJ (J Swap Ltd).

Wood Processing Excellence (sponsored by Oji Paper Company): Heath McMurtrie (Donnelly Sawmillers).

Outstanding Environmental Management (sponsored by Tiaki Plantations Company/Manulife): Crew 14 (Loggabull).

Outstanding Health and Safety Management (sponsored by Taumata Plantations Ltd/Manulife): Fast and Evans Logging – Crew 26 (Fast Harvesting).

Outstanding Regional Service Award (sponsored by PF Olsen): Ritz (Retina) Ellis (Ellis Forestry Training and Assessing Ltd).

Female in Forestry Award (sponsored by Timberlands): Mereana Tobenhouse (Fast Harvesting). Runner-up: Sarah-Jane Luoni (Manulife Forest Management New Zealand).

Best Farm Forester Award (sponsored by Rotorua NZ): Vivian Barr (Te Tiringa Farms).

Best Native Forest Enterprise Award (sponsored by Wildlands): Waa Owens (Te Waa Logging).

Hero of the Year Award (sponsored by First Security): Leesa Haimona (Timberlands) . Runner-up: Lorraine Uatuku (Fast Harvesting).

Photo: Mereana Tobenhouse from Fast Harvesting was honoured as the Female in Forestry Award winner

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