Prue Younger is the CEO of FICA, and has been in the role and doing an awesome job since 2018. Alongside her role at FICA she runs her own company Public Impressions, which delivers a range of events and PR around the country including the regional forestry awards.
Prue is known for her positive attitude, ability to get things done and her huge amount of energy that she brings to our members with everything she does.
"After four years of working hard for our members, sponsors and newly assigned partners we can feel proud to be part of FICA."
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Robert Stubbs, Chair
Robert is hugely passionate about the industry he has worked in for 25 years – the last 18 at the helm of his company Stubbs Contractors, a forestry logging business. For him, there are two things that make it a standout – the people and the environment.
"Forestry is good for the people of our country and is a significant contributor to New Zealand's economy, environment and technology base while helping individual communities and their wider well-being," says Robert.
He came into forestry straight after school, working for local contractors before heading to the mines in Australia for a year. On his return, he was straight into the logging industry and worked for six years operating and managing Dewes Contractors road lining crews before going out on his own as an owner operator for Juken NZ.
However, a motocross accident saw him confined to a wheelchair for life as a paraplegic. His business has flourished and now employs more than 40 staff across four hauler logging crews and a roading crew who operate a wide variety of equipment in sometimes challenging terrain and conditions.
Robert's focus is on the business plan, crew planning, organising of equipment, managing the staff and occasionally stepping in to operate the heavy machinery himself.
Robert stepped up to the role of FICA Chair in November 2022.
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Forestry may be New Zealand’s third-largest industry but it’s extraordinarily under-recognised and under-valued, says Ross Davis.
“Forestry is a massive employer and contributor to our national economy,” he says. “At FICA we are trying to raise the profile of it and advocate for contractors with the Government, forest owners and more. This is such a great industry to be a part of and one that provides solid opportunities for families in terms of employment, financial stability and independence.”
Ross has been involved with forestry for more than 35 years. He started working in Murupara and in 1997, after running a small ground base crew he became the key supplier to CHHF in the Hauraki/Coromandel region. At the peak of business, he had five hauler crews and two ground base crews.
It was during this time his passion for haulers started to evolve and in 2001 he imported his first hauler from the United States. “As our numbers of haulers grew, it was a natural progression to lease them out to other contractors,” says Ross. And that marked the start of his company Log Lease Ltd which leases haulers and logging gear to contractors around the North Island.
“We pride ourselves on supplying durable, well-maintained logging gear,” he says. “Our high quality equipment helps contractors meet productivity demands efficiently and on time.”
Ross is hugely passionate about forestry. “As an industry we demonstrate innovation and are paving the way for improved safety, increased production and better working conditions. It is an exciting industry to be a part of and I am passionate about supporting the next generations of contractors through leadership and guidance.”
Ross, who is also a member of the Forestry Industry Safety Council board, says contracting gives people opportunities they may not have had before. “It is an industry that people sometimes fall into, but when you get it right, it can be a really rewarding one to be a part of.”
Ross stepped down as FICA Chair in November 2022, but remains an active member of the FICA Board.
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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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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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It’s no surprise Sonya has paved a career in an industry that supports forestry.
She grew up in a forestry family – her father was a contractor and she spent many a weekend in the bush with him while he worked. “Back in those days we were allowed to sit with him on his skidder while he pulled logs,” says the Taupo-based accountant.
“It’s a bit different now! As far as I know, my dad was the first contractor to produce 500 tonnes a day on a regular basis with a single rope skidder in the Kaingaroa Forests. I am very proud to have continued our family’s involvement in the industry.”
While Sonya is no longer found out in the bush, she is a director of Blackburne Group Chartered Accountants, helping forestry contractors nationwide. The Group has been dealing with contractors for more than 30 years and it’s the perfect fit for Sonya who not only has a genuine passion for the industry but also understands it so well. “The people who are involved in forestry and their great work ethic make it a very special industry to be a part of,” she says.
She is hopeful the future will be even brighter for them all. “Hopefully it holds greater recognition and reward for the contractors who work so hard to operate within forestry, managing their crews in what is often a very challenging environment.”
She is pleased to see that contractors appear to have more of a voice these days and she encourages them to continue to step up and voice any concerns they may have, particularly over the continued practice of low contract rates from forest owners and managers. “These sorts of practices are not sustainable or safe for our industry.”
That said, Sonya says that while forestry can be extremely tough, it is also a hugely rewarding one to be a part of.
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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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The future of forestry looks bright thanks to advances in technology and more diverse uses for wood fibre, according to Tony. He’s ridden the highs and lows of an industry he has been involved with for 37 years, joining as a schoolboy, working for his father.
Throughout a very diversified career, Tony has worked predominantly for City Forests where there is a keen eye to quality of work and health and safety. These days he is running his own company Gamble Forest Harvesting, a single high production mechanised grapple yarding crew in the Otago coastal forests.
“There is no shortage of leaders and innovators in the forestry industry,” says Tony. “We face constant pressures for improvement in safety and environmental impacts which are mirrored by the need to maintain productivity and keep costs down.”
He has seen plenty of changes in his time in the industry. “As contractors, our businesses are more capital intensive and complex compared to 30 years ago when I started contracting. However, with this ever-changing environment there is an opportunity for contractors to develop strong partnerships with customers beyond the historical short term contract, allowing all parties to benefit.”
Forestry had given him the opportunity to build a career and a sustainable business.
“Sustainability is key for us all,” says Tony, “and particularly now more than ever. A sustainable industry needs a sustainable contractor to ensure we maintain our position in the global market.”
For this Dunedin-based forester, it is the people who make the industry what it is.
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As a kid, Matt remembers all too well holding the tape on the skids for his father Bill. It was North Otago and the early days of the family business Gillion Logging. It inspired him to follow his dad into the industry and after weekend and school holiday work, he quickly learned the ropes. He was adept on a chainsaw at 14 and finally at 16 immersed himself in forestry, first on the skids, log making and cross cutting, then to tree felling and breaking out for the hauler.
He worked for Wellington Breaking Out on very steep land before coming back to the family business after Bill started a second hauler crew under Port Blakely in the Waimate Forest.
Matt spent the next decade bouncing between the two crews until the Waimate operation was sold in 2011. Gillion invested heavily in its gear and worked towards being fully mechanised. In 2017 Matt bought the company from his dad and continued the march towards full mechanisation using quality gear. The company changed its systems to handle the tough terrain with a keen eye on both high production and crew safety.
Matt still gets a massive kick out of his job and by his own admission feels very fortunate to be working under one of the best forest companies in the country. “This is an industry I have been brought up with, understand well and one I feel I can contribute to,” he says. “There are plenty of opportunities for innovation and you meet great people along the way.”
It is the era of new systems and improved work environments and Matt is confident there will be plenty more employment in the years to come.
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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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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