Brad Rodger: Health and Safety is Our Number One Priority
We visited Brad Rodger and the crew at Moutere Logging while they were working on a project for M&R Forestland. Based in Nelson and founded by Dale and Christine Ewers, Moutere Logging has been running since 1989. It’s grown from one logging crew to 14 crews nationwide.
Brad, the logging crew manager at Moutere Logging, has been working in logging for 30 years – 23 of those years for the company. He started working in forestry when he was just 16 years old, making him a fourth-generation forestry worker and keeping the family tradition going. There are five people in Brad’s crew which is contracted to M&R Forestland, and four machines to sort out the harvested trees – they also pull wood with a skidder machine. When Brad first started, he felled trees with a chainsaw; however, nowadays his work doesn’t consist of as much physical labour as it did when he first started logging. A lot of it is run by machinery now, with Brad mentioning that it’s safer, more productive and more time effective.
Moutere Logging harvest trees at around 27 years. "We log the trees and the forest managers give us a cut card on what specifications of logs they want, then we cut to order. When they’re ready, their truck comes along and carts the logs away to wherever they need to go,” Brad said.
Along with working with M&R Forestland, Moutere Logging also contracts to Tasman Pine Forests and Ernslaw One in the North Island. Brad has built a relationship with Goldpine through M&R Forestland. “It’s a pretty new relationship [with M&R Forestland], but it seems to be going well. They’ve got good timber for what Goldpine wants,” he said.
When Dale first started Moutere Logging, it was because he wanted to go out on his own. Coming from a farming background, his family had a block of trees which they sold as post wood to C.B. Eggers (the beginnings of Goldpine). Dale left school and started cutting logs at age 14, which reinforces how logging is what he was born to do. After working on his family farm, he then started working for a couple of brothers before starting Moutere Logging. Dale has dealt with Goldpine for many years. Not only does he deal with Goldpine as a supplier (contracting to companies who supply wood to Goldpine) but also as a purchaser. He has bought many products for his company and personal use, including Roundwood posts and timber for their little farm.
Along with Moutere Logging, Dale and Christine own multiple businesses, including The Loggers Shop, HQ Café and their specialised machinery manufacturing business, DC Equipment.
DC Equipment also has distributors in the United States and Canada along with a business over in Chile where they manufacture as well. So, not only do they own multiple logging businesses, but they also build forestry equipment for their loggers to use.
“We've been heavily involved in the safety side of harvesting and now we're getting more involved in the environmental side. We've been a little bit slow on the uptake at times, but we've got a mission at DC Equipment – we believe that by 2025, we will have reduced our emissions by 50 per cent. We'll be close to, if not on, zero emissions by 2030,” Dale said.
Moutere Logging promotes sustainable cuts where they log and replant. Turning forestry into good quality products that can last a lifetime is beneficial as well as the carbon and environmental aspects; wood is good for that. “We promote wood everywhere we go – it’s our future,” Dale said.
“In forestry, we don't advertise ourselves – we don't sell a good story. The perception is that we are all these bloody bogans that just work hard and drink hard. But the industry's changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Most of what’s changed is the mechanisation, so you can have people there without the muscle and the brawn. There are a lot more females working in the industry now, so it’s not just a male-dominated industry,” Dale added.
Brad understands that planting pine trees on flatter areas can cause a shortage of farmland and realises the repercussions of food shortages. Farming is so important in New Zealand and we still need to grow our own food and be good stewards of the land. That’s why all of the forests that Brad has worked in have had pine trees inhabiting the land for many years. Forests generally change ownership every harvest cycle and once that happens, the companies who buy them continue to grow new pine trees on the same area of land. Just like farming, forestry is a very important industry for New Zealand as it provides high-quality wood for houses, sheds, furniture and fencing products – amongst other things.
“Pinus radiata trees are really easy to work with. We can grow pretty good pine trees here [in New Zealand] that are good quality. Wood is very versatile; you can do anything with it really and cut it to what diameters you want if it's treated properly – especially pine.” Brad said.
“Forestry used to have a bit of a bad name for the environmental side of things. A lot of it has changed now; we’re 90 per cent better than what we used to be, you know, keeping away from waterways and things like that,” he added.
If Brad isn’t working in the forests, he enjoys riding his motorbike in his spare time. Being a part of the industry for many years, Brad told us that if you want to work hard under all weather conditions and want to earn reasonable money, then get into forestry.
Moutere Logging's plans include ensuring good health and safety standards across their business, focusing heavily on training and upskilling their workers. They are always open to hiring individuals who are interested in being part of a sustainable industry. One of their company’s values is zero harm, making sure that accidents are minimalised and that people get home safe at night. Dale believes that their business is at the forefront of health and safety for the forestry industry globally. There are plenty of opportunities for growth within the business, with some certified tree fellers now designing equipment for other tree fellers at DC Equipment.
DC Equipment has a variety of different departments, ranging from electrical and production to services. So, if you’re interested in getting into another area within forestry, there’s opportunities for workers to move around and find another department that they’re going to thrive in.
“In 2012, we made a plan where we want to be logging from afar by 2025. So, that means that our machinery will be designed and built to operate virtually from your home.
"We just got a grant from Callaghan Innovation to prototype an unmanned felling machine to align with WorkSafe New Zealand's aim to have no hand-felled trees in the commercial forest by 2025. We want to be a part of making this happen," Dale said.
We are looking forward to seeing the technological innovation that will come out of DC Equipment within the next few years. It’s been one hell of a ride for the business, but their number one focus is continuing to develop their machinery and supporting their workers and customers.