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Maori Party: Government must step in to end forestry deaths

20 December 2013

Maori Party says Government must step in to end forestry deaths now

The Maori Party says ten deaths in the forestry industry this year is ten too many and the Government must step in now to end this unnecessary loss of life, following the latest fatality in Horowhenua this week.

“We support the call for an inquiry into the forestry industry to urgently improve health and safety standards in the industry,” says Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“I have been approached by forestry workers who have told me about the pressures they work under. Some of them have lost family members as a result of a logging accident. They have told us that workplace training of younger forestry workers is inadequate and that the Government must regulate the industry in domains such as hours of work, training, wages, poor weather provision and fatigue,” says Mr Flavell.

“In June this year, we wrote to Labour Minister Simon Bridges advising him of our concern about the inherent danger in the forestry industry and in particular the disproportionate risks that Maori working in the sector face,” says Co-leader Tariana Turia.

“Minister Bridges has assured us he has many measures he seeks to initiate, including establishing Worksafe New Zealand; the Safer Forest Harvesting Project; an Approved Code of Practice and a major change programme. We say that these must all be implemented as a matter of urgency.”

“Forestry corporations must also acknowledge their role in health and safety in the forestry industry. We believe they are putting pressure on contractors to deliver under totally unreasonable and unsafe deadlines.”

“We have anecdotal evidence which suggests that forestry corporates have driven up the targets that contractors are expected to make to increase their margins and therefore their profits. Contract managers have in turn squeezed the margins and driven the contractors and their crews to deliver more for very tight margins. As a result of the inbuilt pressure, shortcuts are taken and dangerous practices followed, leading to more deaths,” says Mr Flavell.

“The Maori Party believes that it is a whole of industry issue and that starts with the corporate attitude and their sense that this has nothing to do with them. We understand that since August, safety inspectors have closed down one in every ten cable logging operators in the country and taken enforcement action 203 times. These are appalling statistics which provide little cause for optimism that we are doing everything we can to keep workers safe.”

“We have frequently written to Minister Bridges about workplace safety in the forestry industry. We have asked questions in the House. We have issued statements. We are currently drafting up a private member’s bill. We have written to the Maori Affairs Select Committee to ask them to specifically focus on the tragic series of fatalities suffered in the forestry sector. We will keep working on multiple fronts until this issue is given the attention and urgency it requires,” says Mrs Turia.

“We want to be part of the solution in keeping our workers safe and we expect that Maori expertise will be represented on the Worksafe Board. We want to work cooperatively to ensure that Government will investigate all avenues to immediately address the evident dangerous practice which is ongoing in the forestry industry.”

ENDS

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