Forestry Minister Shane Jones has hailed a return to work for the forestry industry when the country drops to Alert Level 3 on April 28.

“The forestry sector has told me they are raring to go. With forestry being among the first industries affected by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s great that businesses across the supply chain are ready and waiting to get back up and running. This includes harvesting, which employs 7500 people.

“When a sector as big as forestry, which employs 30,000 people across the supply chain nationwide, grinds to a halt, the knock-on effects are huge. The resumption of work at level 3, with strict safety and social distancing protocols in place, is very welcome news.

“I acknowledge the forestry sector’s support for measures the Government is taking. Our approach must be pragmatic and recognise that worker health and safety is paramount,” Shane Jones said.

Te Uru Rākau worked with the sector to develop safe operating protocols across the supply chain, which are available online.

Forestry sector businesses that can operate at Alert Level 3 include:

· Forestry management including aerial spraying, weed and pest management

· Nursery operations, planting and seed collection

· Log harvesting and haulage

· Log sales

· Wood processing

Some forestry businesses continued under Alert Level 4 to process wood for essential goods such as wood for pallets and fuel, and pulp and paper for products such as food and medicine packaging.

A phased restart for the industry has been under way since April 14, with additional businesses across the forestry supply chain restarting operations to ensure those essential supplies are available.

“I’m proud that the forestry and wood-processing sectors have been able to continue to supply essential products like firewood and shipping pallets during this uncertain time. These wood products are vital, whether they’re used to keep our homes warm or to move food around the country,” Shane Jones said.

The Government is committed to supporting all parts of the forestry sector to restart, and ensuring the industry remains financially supported in the meantime.

“We’ve kept an eye on the essential services supply chain and adjusted it as needed, while supporting forestry and wood-processing sector businesses with wage subsidies,” Shane Jones said.

Uptake of the Government’s COVID-19 wage subsidy has been very high among forestry businesses. Nearly 90 percent of respondents in a Te Uru Rākau forestry sector survey undertaken on 31 March reported they were either receiving or had applied for the subsidy. This covers 4467 fulltime and 75 part-time employees.