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New Waiariki Sawmill Manager Appointed

New Waiariki Sawmill Manager Has A Lifetime's Experience In Forestry

To say newly-appointed Waiariki Sawmill manager Steve Hemsley is experienced is putting it mildly: he brings a lifetime's experience to his new position at the Waiariki Institute of Technology's School of Forestry and Wood Processing's Waipa site, at Rotorua.

Hemsley, 50, has been employed continuously in the forestry sector since he signed on as a forest ranger trainee with the NZ Forest Service in 1972.

For the past 16 years, he has managed Waiariki's Timber Technology Campus (TiTC) as it was previously known. In that time, he has overseen the transformation of TiTC from being wholly dependent on Government funding to a situation where half the income is now derived from commercial-related activities introduced into training programmes. This has provided hands-on training opportunities for students, contributing to their job readiness.

Now Hemsley heads the new-look Waiariki Sawmill. As manager, he'll be responsible for turning it into a demonstration sawmill that will become an international showcase of cutting-edge technology and operational processes in an educational environment. At the same time, his brief is to ensure the mill increases its productivity capability to at least break even.

These are challenges that don't faze Hemsley.

"Fine-tuning of mill operations is underway now to increase production levels," he says. "We don't want to compete with other sawmills. We'd prefer to work in with them, but we do want to develop an exemplary sawmill that is financially viable."

Hemsley says the main aim is to attract higher level students and to demonstrate to them good practices in sawmill operations and operational management including including health and safety, maintenance systems, conversion practices and timber grade recoveries. He's hopeful of support from industry suppliers who could use Waiariki Sawmill to demonstrate new equipment and technologies to the wider industry. "The industry is screaming out for skilled people. Despite the downturn in forestry and the cyclical nature of the industry, there are some good career options. I'm seeing young people doing very well (in wood processing)."

Waiariki will be delivering a new Level 5 and 6 Diploma to industry students based on a block course structure from next year onwards. This qualification will include topics such as business management, project management, operations management, costing, quality management and optimization projects.

The school is also offering a new entry-level course into the New Zealand sawmilling industry: the Level 2 National Certificate in Wood Processing, which is still subject to approval, is considered the pathway for further training at Levels 3 and 4 in the form of short industry block courses. Subjects covered will include health, safety, first aid, timber grading, environmental issues, sawmill hygiene, milling operations, wood properties, timber measurements and communication. It's anticipated holders of the certificate will be positioned to access entry-level job opportunities.

Hemsley was an inaugural member of the industry steering group responsible for defining new qualifications for the industry based on the development of NZQA unit standards.

A family man, he spends much of his spare time at a bach at Pukehina and enjoys sea and trout fishing.

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