FICA is coordinated by CEO Rowan Struthers and governed by a volunteer board made up of representatives elected at our Annual General Meeting.


Rowan Struthers

Rowan is an experienced professional who has over 30 years of experience working in forestry. He took over the role of FICA CEO in March 2024. Having graduated from Canterbury University Forestry School, Rowan has worked in most facets of the industry including silviculture, woodflow/supply chain management, harvesting, log trading, human resource management, sales and marketing of processed products, building supplies management, forest procurement and general management.

He has held senior leadership roles in a diverse number of companies that include Fletcher Challenge Forests, Umbraco (a privately owned building suppliers company managing multiple sites), Hancock/Manulife and most recently Chief Operations Officer at China Forestry Group. He has also been a member of the NZFOA executive.

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Nick Tombleson

There’s nothing like good people and big machines to make for a compelling industry to be a part of, according to Nick Tombleson.

The 21-year veteran grew up knowing it was where he wanted to be. “My dad was a bushman and ever since I was a kid, I was going to follow his footsteps,” says Nick. 

“Forestry has been a strong part of New Zealand’s history and I feel it is going to play an even more important role in the future.”

It certainly helped that it was driven by great people who headed out with the aim of “going hard” every day. “The camaraderie of loggers is very special,” says the Taupo-based owner of Tombleson Logging. “The majority are honest, hardworking good people.”

He is hopeful forestry will be seen by all as a way to battle climate change, which would lead to a far more secure future for all.

“Forestry is far more complex than just chopping a tree down,” he says. “There are hundreds of different parts and roles, with each as vital as the other. I think we will continue to see massive advances in technology too, making it something quite exciting to be a part of.”

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Dale Ewers

Dale joined the forestry industry at just 14 years old and thrives on the challenges that logging provides. The veteran logger has developed a real passion for seeking a better way to harvest that is both safer and more efficient.

He and wife Christine own Moutere Logging in Nelson, one of New Zealand’s largest harvesting companies, as well as mechanical services and manufacturing company DC Equipment, producers of the Falcon Forestry Equipment range of mechanised logging equipment.

“There are a lot of good people in forestry,” says Dale. “People who are hard workers and dedicated to the industry. It is outdoors and challenging work with a lot of opportunities for mechanisation to make harvesting more productive and safer.”

DC Equipment has a strong focus on developing a range of technologies to make steep slope logging safer and more productive. “Whether that’s replacing breaker-outs with a hydraulic grapple carriage or substitution fallers on difficult hill sites with a felling head attached to a carriage – it is all about improving that safety factor.”

Dale feels the future is very positive for forestry in New Zealand with the cut continuing to increase. “Forestry has been around for a long time and has a big future with a large sustainable forest cut that needs to be harvested for many years to come,” he says. “Forestry is good for our country – it is a good source of employment and revenue for our local communities and a major money earner for New Zealand’s economy.”

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Kevin Ihaka

It’s going to take a committed team effort to continue to create an environment in which sustainable professional forestry businesses can thrive, according to Kevin Ihaka who has been in the industry for nearly four decades.

He is well entrenched across many facets of the industry both as a business owner and through councils, boards and committees. “Forestry has the potential to provide sustainable economic support to the regions and create opportunities where they currently may not exist,” he says. Those opportunities include within the supply chain with the new investment Government has made in the Billion Trees Project in which Kevin says FICA must be a key player. 

“Forestry supply chains have traditionally been volatile with a lot of uncertainty for contractors. We need to work with the Government and sector to create the environment in which those sustainable professional businesses can thrive.”

Kevin first dipped into the forestry industry in the 1980s when he was involved with forest establishment and protection. Over the years he has had staff and crews on fire assignments in five countries. The Whangarei-based managing director of FPS Forestry works across a silviculture, fire, forest maintenance and more and over the years has seen the industry roll through some massive changes. It’s an industry he holds dear to his heart, none-the-least because of the people involved. 

“It is my firm belief that we need to take a holistic view of our businesses and improve across all aspects of them for a safer environment for all.”

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Steven Yeoman

For Steven, a ground-based logging contractor from Taupo, forestry is all about the people and the environment. He came into the industry in 1995 after graduating with a Bachelor of Forestry Science (hons) degree from the University of Canterbury. Apart from the usual Kiwi OE, he’s been involved ever since. He loves the outdoor nature of his work but knows it is an industry with challenges.

“The key to our industry’s sustainability is in our workforce and environmental practices,” says Steven who is also on the Industry Training Committee. “I see value in contributing to the foundation education services that will deliver the next generation of forestry workers.” 

For the past 20 years, he has worked as a ground-based logging contractor, starting out in Hawke’s Bay with a small roadlining crew, and growing to have two fully mechanised crews in the Central North Island.

His company Volcanic Plateau Logging has been rewarded for its quality-driven efforts, winning Training Company of the year at the 2013 FITEC National training Awards. Steven’s ethos when it comes to business focuses on hard-working, reliable crews, that deliver a quality result safely.

“It is a multi-faceted workspace where the quality of your machinery manufacturers, the service providers, the trucking companies uplifting your wood, together with planning from the forest managers, all contribute to a successful logging operation,” he says. “In New Zealand we have some very talented and innovative people working in the forestry industry, and that’s what makes it a very special one to be involved with. I think it has a solid future.”

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Nathan Taylor

Nathan’s passion for forestry comes from a very grounded perspective. “Forestry provides a backbone to a lot of small heartland towns across New Zealand,” says the Tasman-based working director of Mechanised Cable Harvesting Limited. “There are a lot of people out there who rely on the income it provides across the wider forestry supply chain.”

In his 20 years in the industry he says he has been lucky to work with some of the greats in innovation those pursuing smarter harvesting techniques. In 2018, one of his mechanised cable companies was the first in New Zealand to embrace a push for an industrywide stamp of approval for safety practices in becoming a Safetree Certified Forestry Contractor.

“I like the good honest people in this business who have a passion to move the industry forward through innovation,” says Nathan. “The forestry industry continues to go through a change in technology advancements. That is not only in mechanisation and remote-operated machines, but also through looking further into ways to advance smarter and more intelligent harvesting systems and ways to measure performance which in future will require a different skill set. It is very exciting to be part of that.”

He’s keen to see more people encouraged to be part of such an innovative industry by showing them forestry is a “genuine career with real opportunities”.

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Blair Cooper 

Blair Cooper is a passionate member of the forestry industry as a director of Southern Cross Harvesting, part of the OFM Group. He has a Bachelor's degree in Forestry Science with honors. Known for being hands-on and results-driven, Blair has a strong track record of getting things done efficiently and effectively.

One of Blair's notable strengths is his extensive network and relationships within the forestry industry. Through years of experience and active engagement, Blair has built strong connections with prominent Forest companies and suppliers. These connections grant him unparalleled access to valuable resources and expertise across the industry.

Blair's ability to effortlessly reach out and connect with key stakeholders enables him to navigate the forestry landscape with ease. This skill proves instrumental in problem-solving and forging collaborations within the industry.

He is the owner of two forest harvesting operations. This hands-on experience in managing forestry operations provides him with valuable insights and a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the field. He leverages this knowledge in his management role across the OFM group, where he oversees various aspects of forestry operations.

Blair's expertise extends beyond New Zealand, as he has gained international experience working in Australia and Canada. His involvement at Timberlands. Early in his career equipped him with comprehensive knowledge of the forestry supply chain. From planning and harvesting to marketing and distribution, Blair possesses a well-rounded understanding of the entire industry.

Overall, Blair Cooper's passion, extensive network, hands-on experience, and international exposure make him a highly competent and well-rounded professional in the forestry industry.

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Mandie Skipps

Mandie had a career in media sales & marketing working her way up from Sales management, General management, Regional Manager to 5 years ago holding an executive role at a national level with NZME.

She was first introduced to forestry in 2000 in Whakatane when she met her husband, Tom Skipps. Many a weekend was spent carrying his fuel, water, and lunch while he manually felled trees.

In 2007 Mandie & Tom started Skipps Logging Ltd their own cable harvesting crew in the Auckland region. Mandie handled all the finances & HR for SLL while working for The Radio network.

Following work opportunities, they moved to Whangarei in 2010 and started a second crew. Mandie was the GM of Mediaworks Northland but remained heavily involved with the management of SLL.

2015 saw Mandie in an executive role with NZME that entailed regular domestic and overseas travel away from the family and business. It was timely in 2018, when the opportunity arose, for Mandie to step into the business fulltime and take on the Operations role.

Mandie studied fitness and gained her personal training qualification, and in 2019 opened her own gym in Whangarei. As part of her role in their business Mandie offered free personal training sessions for their crews, including group fitness sessions twice a week for them, their partners, and children at no cost.

Mandie devised and implemented a “Kickstart” which is done after the morning toolbox meeting. The “Kickstart” is a 2-minute exercise regime before the guys commence their day. This is designed to get the blood pumping around the brain, so they are more alert and increases the “happy juices” for a positive start to the day.

Mandie sets a high priority on health & fitness knowing the importance of a healthy body, healthy mind and the positive impacts that has on H&S in the crews and the business overall.

Mandie’s role with Skipp’s Logging is diverse. She manages all of the office administration, health & safety & recruitment.

Mandie has fully redesigned their induction process which has incorporated wellness checks which cover both physical & mental health needs.

Mandie & Tom now run their business out of the Waikato and are based in Cambridge with two of their children. One who is head breaker out in one of their crews and the other still at school. Their eldest is married with 3 children and is a Doctor at Tauranga hospital.

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Christine Axtens

Christine has been involved in the forestry industry for 15 years. She runs the office of MHE Ltd, assisting her husband to manage two logging crews in the Central North Island region.

As a contractor she believes forestry is a pivotal part of many communities and is greatly undervalued. The many challenges faced by contractors presently need to be worked on with a collaborative approach by all, to benefit the industry.

By joining the FICA Board, she hopes to bring a perspective running a logging operation from behind the scenes, and focus on issues such as market volatility, environmental best practices, forestry innovation, safety and workforce training and support.

“There is much more to growing and harvesting trees than our communities understand. I am very proud to be part of the industry and want the contractors to continue to be well represented, to grow in credibility and mana while being known as a leading industry with great people and high standards of professionalism.”

Originally trained as a registered nurse, Christine has completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Health Studies, which focused on Quality and Risk, H & S, Leadership and Management and Clinical Governance. These concepts are important and transferrable to the forestry sector.

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