Funding boost for Tairawhiti sawmill and new forestry training course

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 7, 2018

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $500,000 in the Far East Saw Mill in Tairawhiti to increase wood processing capacity and get local people into jobs, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today.

The total cost to recommission the mill is just over $3.6 million, with the rest of the funding coming from the Eastland Community Trust and the Far East Saw Mill Limited.

“Currently only four percent of raw logs are milled in Tairawhiti, but there‘s potential for that to increase by up to 25 percent, which will add an estimated $120 million annually to the region,” Jones said.

“Forestry is a significant economic driver in Tairawhiti and we want to make sure the region is able to take full advantage of the opportunities the sector provides. Today‘s announcement will help ensure that any future increases can be managed locally.”

Jones said funding from the PGF will also help speed up the mill‘s production capacity, which is currently only operating at 10 percent, while also returning 50 jobs to the local economy.

“This will lead to higher value forestry products being produced and more money going back into the community via pay packets for local workers.”

The Far East Saw Mill is a key component of the Wood Processing Centre of Excellence, which aims to be a hub for wood processing, wood products, marketing and distribution, and training and research.

In addition, the PGF will provide just over $300,000 to pilot a forestry training course as a solution to the growing forestry skills shortage. The full cost of the pilot is $840,000, with the additional funding coming from the Eastland Community Trust, the Forest Growers Levy Trust and the Eastern Institute of Technology.

“The ManaiaSAFE Forestry School pilot course funded through today‘s announcement will reduce the current skills shortage by preparing individuals with the right skills needed to be successful and make forestry their career of choice,” said Jones.

The pilot will take 11 trainees through 20 weeks of training, with the goal of gaining permanent employment. It will also contribute nine new jobs to the local community through the running of the course. It will bridge the gap between the classroom and commercial sites by delivering a specifically designed training programme within a controlled, commercial environment, and if successful, could also form the basis for similar training courses in other parts of the country where there are forestry skills shortages.