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FICA E-Newsletter - December 2023

As the last newsletter of 2023 I could not help but reflect on where we are as of today and maybe what lies ahead for a better year in 2024.

As it happens, I had to give a brief overview of the industry at our Food and Fibre CoVE earlier in the week and this is how it went. From the political world around us, we had experienced delays prior to elections as around about July Government agencies fell quiet. The election came and went, and we can see another 3 or 4 months with delays as the coalition government work out what is what and who does what. So, expect another 3-4 months of delays.

We were privileged to have the new Forestry Minister MP Todd McClay meet us this week as a collective group in Wellington and he’s already started off on the right foot by offering his time to the new Pan Sector Group as we need. The other minister that is of importance to the industry is Minster Brooke Van Velden of Workplace Relations & Safety. Talking further about the Pan Sector Group – the new entity goes under the guise of the NZ Forest & Wood Sector Forum. I am pleased to say the outcome of our July hui has translated to a group of ten foundation members that will sign up to an agreed ACCORD and invite registration of all other industry groups onto the communications database. These communications will be operating both ways with outwards information and inwards feedback.

As the Coalition Government takes shape, the collective group led by NZFOA have created a BIM – Briefing for the Incoming Minister which is available in full here.

Where will the ROVE – Reform of Vocational Education restructure fit into the new policies? Well, I am sure its not that clear cut yet. The industry has been extremely frustrated like other sector groups with the lack of progress, and the lack of engagement around many of the training entities. The WDC – Work Force Development Council Muka Tangata for Food & Fibre (and that includes Forestry) has been working to effect review of our qualifications, but we are finding it difficult to get the right people around the table and the time to put a proper review into effect. Let's slow down and get it right.

Amidst the windthrow work that became available for over 40 contractors and approximately 400 truck drivers in Turangi, they are all under a short-term contract to 30 June 2024. Unfortunately, we all have to realise that if the market does not come right and it's going to be a slow climb out even if the incline has lifted slightly this month, that the opportunities to look ahead to work will be limited. So, what can we as a sector can do about that?

We’ve seen the JNL Mill close this last month, with 80 jobs lost and the flow-on effect across the Tairawhiti community probably triple that number to service providers and trade. Impacted more than any other region, Tairawhiti is now facing extensive review and implementation of significant environmental regulations, so you must ask how long can some of the larger forest owners stay sustainable in that sort of space?

Workshops funded through the NIWE funding from MPI that FICA has run over this last month have shown the pressures our industry is under with low attendance. It’s not unusual to have this as the contractor owners are out on the tools and they don’t have the freedom of additional staff to leave the site for a day to increase their skills and knowledge as businesspeople. We have put 'plan B' into action and will launch a video series out of these workshops in 2024.

More recently I have reached out to the forest owners and management companies to seriously consider bringing in our new forestry centric wellbeing and mental awareness programmes under the Be a Mate : Hei Hoa te Ngahere theme to the new year safe start meetings. This is based on A-OK New Zealand’s one hour course on self-awareness and one hour course on mental wellbeing/suicide prevention - both important topics that can support our workforce who are under extreme pressure and challenges.

Where have we ended up this year, rolling into the festive season? Well, it’s been a tough one and one that we don’t want to repeat. We have great hopes for this Pan Sector approach that the group has endorsed through its Accord and a better alignment and communication to the supply chain.

It goes without saying, everyone needs a break, a time to take stock and a moment to share a laugh, a tear and a hug with your whanau, friends, and fellow workers this next month.

"More time, less hurries. More fun, less worries. More smiles, less mess. More merry, less stress."

Merry Xmas - Meri Kirihimete