New job, new skills and new experiences

It is not every day you find a jet ski buried in a patch of scrub.

However, that is what five new chainsaw operators discovered when clearing pest plants from Walter Reid Reserve near Whakatāne.

The new recruits are among dozens in the Eastern Bay of Plenty who have been helped back into the work force through the Provincial Growth Fund’s $8.2m investment in the Whakatāne District Council-led Kia Kaha Whakatāne project.

The initiative is a suite of activities that will deliver roading, infrastructure and environmental projects in partnership with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and provide urgent economic relief, particularly for those who have lost jobs through COVID-19.

New chainsaw operator Lyric Amoroa said she lost her job during the first lock down earlier this year.

Ms Amoroa quickly got into a two-week Cadet Max course through Work and Income, and was fortunate enough to then secure her new job which involves cutting down trees and clearing pest plants from local reserves.

“The biggest challenges would be waking up on cold winter mornings and learning how to identify between native and pest trees. Learning and working with people my own age, out in nature and active has made the job fun,” she says.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council contractor Richard Mahy says he was stoked to help Ms Amoroa and four others back into the workforce. 

“To get five young people involved in an area they haven’t had any experience in before is awesome,” he says.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody. They have employment for the next six to seven months and at the same time, they are doing a great job for the community by eliminating pest trees and clearing areas to make  way for more native plantings. They’re learning practical skills and work experience that will help them to secure jobs in the future.”

The team has completed its basic chainsaw course and will also undergo a first aid course and more specialised tree felling instruction.

Mr Mahy says no two days are the same, with the team recently discovering an old jet ski, which probably came down the river in a flooding event.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council project manager Paula Chapman says Kia Kaha Whakatāne focuses on providing new opportunities for those hit by unemployment from both COVID-19 and the economic downturn related to the Whakaari eruption.

“At the same time we are building and up-skilling our local community while delivering more of our environmental enhancement and community resilience outcomes.

For more information on Kia Kaha Whakatāne projects, please head to the Regional Council website or Whakatāne District Council website.