Forestry course gets financial boost

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Attracting new entrants to the forestry industry is a constant battle for firms across the sector, but new funding could help a Clutha-based training programme solve the problem.

Assisted by Competenz, a course run at Balclutha’s Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting has received more than $450,000 to sustain it for three years.

‘‘It comes from the Government’s One Billion Trees fund,’’ Competenz account manager Phil Williams said.

‘‘We helped secure the funding, to get it growing and make it sustainable, but Mike [Hurring] built it off his own bat.’’

Mr Hurring had already invested more than $600,000 of his own money in the project, assisting ‘‘at least 30 students’’ to reach industry standards.

The course is structured into five one-week on-site sessions spread over a year.

Mr Hurring said the tightening of health and safety regulations in recent years meant training in the use of large machinery was more necessary.

‘‘We want to keep people as far away from any danger as possible. . .You hardly ever see guys just using chainsaws any more,’’ he said.

‘‘Here they can learn to use large-scale equipment.’’

To do this, trainees from across the South Island came to Balclutha to learn theory, visit industry sites, use simulators and try out the real equipment.

‘‘We want it to be hands-on . . . not just standing around being talked at.’’

He said there was significant support from employers in the industry for the project.

Earnslaw One chief executive Phil de la Mare had previously sponsored trainees in the course.

‘‘What’s great about the course is that it comes from within the industry and its made for what we need,’’ he said.

During a trip to Finland in 2014, Mr Hurring saw ‘‘state of the art’’ logging equipment, and operated simulators.

Soon after, he bought the first simulator for the site, based on a John Derre mechanised harvester; trainees could learn the controls and operate the virtual machine like the real thing.

‘‘The actual machines are very expensive so this is a good way of learning without risking any damage.’’