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Worker wellbeing top priority for East Coast leadership

Ongoing disruptions for the forestry industry and sluggish exports from Eastland Port continue to create uncertainty for forestry businesses and workers up and down the East Coast.

Recognising that many contractors and workers face earnings instability over the coming weeks and months, a grassroots community effort fired up last Friday to help local forestry wellness coach Wade Brunt scale up his Jogging for Logging initiative into a dedicated worker wellness centre.

A fundraising campaign to secure the $40,000 establishment budget kicked off Monday morning and within 24 hours, the target required to open the centre had been pledged by supporters.

Regional development trust Trust Tairāwhiti were first to pledge $10,000 to get the effort underway. Gavin Murphy, Trust Tairāwhiti CEO said “the worker wellness centre ticks a number of boxes under the Trust’s wellbeing framework (He Tohu Ora) and we’re pleased to know that it can be a connection point for a number of existing services to reach into the forestry community at this critical time”.

Eastland Group, which includes the operation of the Eastland Port, were also keen to see this effort reach target and added another $10,000. Matt Todd, Eastland Group Chief Executive said, “This initiative shows Tairāwhiti at its best – individuals and organisations sharing their ideas and expertise to get a worker wellness centre up and running. At Eastland Group we have a focus on building mental wellbeing and resilience in the workplace, and understand that this facility will make a meaningful difference to so many people throughout the region. I encourage other businesses, particularly the major forestry companies, to rally round and lend their support. Together we can expand this facility’s reach from Gisborne right up the coast.”

Andrew Gaddum, Eastland Port Chief Operating Officer said “We’re seeing the far-reaching impacts first hand. The ongoing uncertainty is creating extra pressure on crews, trucking companies and support businesses. While log trucks are rolling in to the port and ships are loading at the moment, no one knows what the coming weeks will bring. But what we do know is that, as a region, we need to work together to look after each other. This wellness centre is a collaborative, grassroots effort that will provide long term resources for forestry workers and their whānau.”

Mayor Stoltz was quick to acknowledge the value of the effort with a $5,000 pledge from Gisborne District Council.

Ngāti Porou Holdings is also putting $10,000 towards the opening of the centre. Group chief executive, Herewini Te Koha, says it’s a no brainer that Ngāti Porou helps to support the affected workers and families. “Obviously, forestry is a big employer across Ngāti Porou”, says Mr Te Koha. “It’s a challenging sector at the best of times, so we need to pull together when extraordinary events like coronavirus threaten the stability of local businesses and households”.

Mr Te Koha comments “We understand that the Government is looking at a relief package, nationally. In the meantime, we’re getting behind the locally-led response, especially those that we know will reach the most affected”.

A generous offer of significantly discounted lease space from Gisborne Harriers Club means a location has been secured.

An anonymous donor in the local community came through with the final $5,000 this morning needed to ensure the centre would open this week.

Community leader and centre coordinator Wade Brunt says, “I know this is a very challenging time for everyone in the forestry industry. Every company and every crew is doing it tough. Talking within my networks in the industry, I know we can make this place a zone for positivity and practical support for whānau. We’ll take time to listen and engage with the forestry crew and whānau to figure out how we can best support, whether it’s a quick group workout, a deep freezer for kai or bringing in some experts for a chat. It’s a place of aroha - sharing, caring and connecting.”

With the opening of the Gisborne centre guaranteed, Mr Brunt is looking forward to connecting this effort to individual forestry companies and contractors over the coming weeks. He says, “the next challenge will be working out how we link with all our whānau and community efforts all the way up the coast”.

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