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NZ Forestry and Market Madness

Filed under: General — Downunder @ 2:43 pm Sun 25th May 2014

While we can be grateful that we have not been burying forestry workers at the same rate, we cannot allow our forestry industry to continue to operate in the same way.

We are a disgrace by international standards.

The New Zealand forestry industry has been the subject of many recent media reports, some of which are recorded in a previous post New Zealand Forestry Industry out of control.

Last year (2013) saw our highest number of fatalities, with 10 forestry deaths being recorded across the country. As was noted recently by the Rotorua Coroner, we rate very poorly by international standards; countries with significantly larger operations having less than 10 fatalities a year.

To date, there has been one fatality on the 16th January.

What happened – did the industry suddenly develop a conscience?

No. It has taken intervention by WorkSafe, our safety watchdog, which has been working its way through a nationwide investigation, looking to identify unsafe operators, and where necessary shut down dangerous operations and ensure that unacceptable industry practices are stopped or rectified. The attention the industry has been receiving and the possibility of prosecution is no doubt a catalyst for the sudden reduction in the number of deaths.

While there have been prosecutions in respect of some of last year’s fatalities, the Council of Trade Unions has not been satisfied with the threshold of responsibility and has taken its own prosecutions in at least two cases. This is as much though, if not more, to do with compensation for families, than the safety of workers.

Has the leopard changed its spots – is our forestry industry now a safe place for men to earn a living?

I don’t think so.

For all that WorkSafe may have achieved to date, I doubt they could (hand on heart) say that their interventions have resolved the underlying issues affecting the health of the industry. Our forestry industry like others has been carved up by market forces and competition, creating a low wage limited skill industry that has little respect for the lives and welfare of the men it engages to work in the field of operation.

The change will need to come from within the industry – it must not be allowed to continue to be a place for investors looking for cut price rates to make the best return ‘on their investment’ without responsibility for the human cost expended in creating that return.

That as such, is not a forestry operation, nor is it a business, nor should it be allowed to be an acceptable business practice in a supposedly civilised country.

Reform of the forestry industry is far from over. There must first be a significant culture change amongst stakeholders; an acceptance of responsibility, an acceptance that the industry is obliged to skill, protect and provide for the on-going maintenance of its workforce.

The industry must be held to account not only for deaths but also for the serious-harm accidents which can cause a family even greater hardship and financial pain than a death, when they are left to care for a disabled worker.

Serious harm accident statistics from 2008 – 2013 are shown in the following table.

2008 179
2009 161
2010 170
2011 182
2012 188
2013 87

At face value it appears that there has been a significant drop in the number of serious-harm accidents for 2013 – this is not the case however, and a change in the reporting criteria to meet a new serious-harm threshold has caused the anomaly.

Worse though; if the current rate of serious-harm accidents continues through the rest of this year, we will see a 50% increase in the number of accidents.

That is not an industry cleaning up its act. That is not an industry showing a change in attitude toward worker safety. That is not an industry meeting acceptable levels of business management and respect for human resources.

This is where WorkSafe and the forestry industry must face off. If WorkSafe is to bring us back to acceptable standards of forestry management, it won’t be without a serious confrontation with this industry – there’s going to be costs and some are not going to like that.

Until then, these men remain subject to an unsafe and unacceptable working environment and subject to an unjustifiable and unrealistic work life.


  1. We are merely slaves, slaves are only good as a labour or money source and their are plenty more where the dead ones came from.

    If slaves get too uppity the state just kills them.

    Ever seen any prosecutions for murder or manslaughter for companies causing death?

    Ever seen anyone jailed for more than 5 years for killing someone hunting or on a bike or in a road ‘accident’.

    Ever seen a cop jailed for killing someone?

    Ever seen a woman jailed for driving her man to suicide?

    I know of women who admitted in court to telling their children’s dad to kill himself and the Judge didn’t even tell her off and still gave her a Protection order even though he had never hit her or shouted at her or told her what to do! Go figure.

    Check this out food for thought. All i know is the results are as written. The background story is not as relevant as the results:

    conspiracies – the-great-american-adventure do some research.

    Comment by Phil Watts — Mon 26th May 2014 @ 12:13 pm

  2. Independant Forestry Safety Review

    Panel chair, George Adams, wants to get all the issues on the table so the the panel can consider the way health and safety’s managed, how workers are supported, and the logistics of the job.

    The next stage in untangling the mess.

    The Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel has released a public consultation document, that gives people a chance to have a say on how the industry should be improved.

    Comment by Downunder — Fri 6th June 2014 @ 4:04 pm

  3. New Zealand forestry standards (or lack of worker safety) are gaining international attention, with this Australian article reproduced in the UK Daily Mail.

    “People deserve to come home safely from work every day. They deserve a much higher duty of care than is currently being exercised across much of our forestry sector.”

    Simon Bridges (Minister of Labour)

    Comment by Downunder — Sat 7th June 2014 @ 11:40 am

  4. Press Release from the New Zealand Forestry Workers Union:

    For the last two years FIRST Union and the NZ Council of Trade Unions have highlighted the safety crisis that has been unfolding in our forestry industry. In the previous five years the forestry industry has claimed almost thirty lives and caused almost 1000 serious harm injuries.

    Comment by Downunder — Sat 7th June 2014 @ 11:55 am

  5. The process for gathering feedback

    Independent Forestry Safety Review website:

    Please send us your submission by no later than 12 noon, Friday 4 July 2014

    The consultation document provides a mechanism for you to feed into the Independent Forestry Safety Review. The consultation document and a summary document can be downloaded from this page.

    The Review Panel is interested in your views on the options presented and the answers to the questions we pose in the document.

    Comment by Downunder — Sat 7th June 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  6. Worksafe and the Forestry Industry Square off

    [We’ve now made it to 7 months without a forestry falality]

    The economic model created tension between profit and worker safety and put the greatest burden on workers rather than the owners of the asset, it said.

    “Production targets combined with unexpected delays in harvesting compound health and safety risks,” it said.

    The final report on worker safety is expected mid October.

    Comment by Downunder — Thu 14th August 2014 @ 2:55 pm

  7. Forestry Review Out

    Safety failures in the forestry sector extend all the way up the supply chain and a significant portion of the industry views its frontline staff as a “bottom of the barrel workforce”.

    Those are among the shock findings contained in the 141-page Independent Forestry Safety Review report, which has made 11 recommendations with time frames for implementation stretching from three months to three years.

    The report cites a number of factors for what the review panel found to be a culture of complacency around workplace safety, which makes the forestry sector New Zealand’s most dangerous, with an injury rate double that of other sectors and a fatality rate 15 times the overall rate for all New Zealand work sectors.

    Most shocking of all, the review panel found a widespread industry view that a lax safety culture was acceptable due to the calibre of the workforce.

    “Too often the Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel has been told about the challenges of dealing with a ‘bottom of the barrel’ workforce,” the report said.

    “A significant portion of the industry continues to view its workers from this perspective and consequently absolves itself of its responsibility to do better.

    “We do not share this view. It is damaging and demeaning.”

    Comment by Downunder — Sat 1st November 2014 @ 6:00 am

  8. Interesting article surfacing on a Forestry Industry prosecution.

    Comment by Evan Myers — Sun 11th February 2018 @ 7:31 am

  9. Evan Myers @8: As usual there is no mention in the article of the fact that 100% of the workplace deaths in this industry, the most lethal industry in NZ, are suffered by males. And no attempt to consider the gender issues underlying and surrounding this. It’s positive that the article provides information about the appalling situation regarding company law and the ability of rich owners to liquidate a company and thereby to avoid paying reparation and hard-working contractors (nearly all males). However, it’s a shame that the article had to rely on a damsel in distress as the moral principle.

    It’s probably no coincidence that the selfish owners of this company feature a wife happy to keep enjoying the money rolling in and it appears having made no attempt to help the family of their dead male worker.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Mon 12th February 2018 @ 10:34 am

  10. So, what you do if you’re running a business, is operate as one company that has all the money but employ the workers using another company. That company, with no money gets prosecuted and sued, hence bankruptcy. Meanwhile the surviving company with all the money re-hires the failed companies workers and carries on as if nothing happened.
    Sounds like the accountant and lawyer were giving good advice.
    Politicians however have failed workers by leaving a door open so justice can be manipulated. Don’t they know lawyers write laws with loopholes for future business opportunities. So lawyer, if this were to happen, how do I get away with it?

    Comment by DJ Ward — Mon 12th February 2018 @ 9:15 pm

  11. Surely the Domestic Violence Industry has more fatalities than Forestry?

    Or the Revenue Gathering Industry?

    When has there been any attempt to quantify that?

    Looking at a previous comment on the Post ‘Dead Men Don’t Talk’ the actions of some persons caused harm and almost the death of a man.

    Uninvestigated and of no concern.

    In the forestry article linked to in #8 the mother complains harm was caused a week before but not investigated. But the death is pursued by private prosecution because the system was ‘supossedly misbehaving’.

    Was it misbehaving or is this Helen Kelly targeting the individual.

    Is this the point where Helen Kelly stepped over the Union line and started behaving like an out-of-control rabid feminist.

    Comment by Downunder — Tue 13th February 2018 @ 7:57 am

  12. RE: #11

    Looking at that in the context of Family Law and the operation of the Family Court any lawyer can enter the fray an open a child support case regardless of any existing court cases between the parties without having to give consideraction to the circumstances of the other case.

    We should recall Poodle Dunne’s opening statement in the child support reform debate that the debate could not consider any connection between custody and child support.

    Isn’t that political protection of lawyers who are protecting themselves from liability?

    Comment by Evan Myers — Tue 13th February 2018 @ 8:32 am

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