Nine workers have died in forestry accidents this year.
Photo / Natalie Slade
"Every time we hear another bush accident it rips us to
pieces a bit more."
Maryanne Butler-Finlay lost her husband Charles Finlay in a
forestry accident in July. His was the seventh
forestry-related death of the year and his family hoped he
would be the last.
But two more fatalities have taken the death toll to nine -
almost double the average of recent years. Last week, David
Beamsley died in the Bay of Plenty and Michael Langford was
killed in Nelson.
"I cry a lot, especially with the other two people that
passed last week. And I don't understand why the Government
aren't doing anything ... It keeps happening. How many more
deaths does it take before they actually realise something's
wrong here?" Mrs Butler-Finlay said.
Each new death brought heartache for her, her 20-year-old son
and 9-year-old twin daughters.
This week, amid increasing public concern about the number of
deaths, Labour Minister Simon Bridges said the country had an
"appalling record" and the high death rate in the industry
However, the Government has resisted calls so far to regulate
the industry. Instead, legislation will be introduced next
year that would make forestry owners more responsible for
safety throughout their entire supply chain.
Mrs Butler-Finlay told the Herald it was "ludicrous" not to
"What will it take? Do we have to have half of (timber town)
Tokoroa wiped out because of forestry deaths?"
She hoped there would be an independent inquiry.
"There has to be accountability. We're talking about lives
here. I know the forestry industry is putting billions of
dollars back into the economy which is a great thing, but at
the expense of what?"
Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly held a meeting
this week with representatives of the Forest Owners
Association, which she called "positive".
They promised to initiate a review that she hoped would get
"It's about working through the process, which is very
important, but actually what we need is for the Government to
regulate about things we know are causing the accidents."
She said the regulations released last year had actually
"weakened the industry".
Ms Kelly said the the human cost of the forestry accidents
was not confined to the nine men who had died - many others
had suffered serious injuries.
"There are over 90 serious harm injuries. There are (workers)
airlifted out of forests with severe injuries, severe brain
injuries, severe leg injuries, severe back injuries."
Workers in sites around the country had spoken of their fear
- and so have their families. "They're very worried. They're
very repetitive about what they think the issues are.
"They think the hours are too long, the pay is too low for
them to work (a normal day), they need things built into
contracts so their employers have space to move in bad
weather, they need protecting around productivity pressure,
so they can call off the work in bad weather."
There were other issues ranging from flood lighting for night
work to protection from the conditions.
She said forestry owners had "stepped up" in recent times to
own the problem but there was still a long way to go, and she
feared there would be more accidents before the end of the
year. "It's still too early to be confident."
A timeline of tragedy
* January 11 - Eramiha Pairama, 19. Struck by a tree near
* January 17 - John Sanderson, 40. Died after a branch fell
on him, severing his leg near Whangarei.
* February 18 - Robert Thompson, 43, hit in head by a hook
after a rope snapped. Thames area.
* March 26 - Robert Epapara, 23. Struck by a tree and crushed
while working near Rotorua.
* April 22 - Adam Olsson. Hit in head by part of a falling
tree near Waitara.
* May 6 - Mark Rogan, 45. Died of an infection caused by a
piece of wood that flew into his throat.
* July 19 - Charles Finlay, 45. Struck on head by a log.
* November 26 - David Charles Beamsley, 63, died in logging
accident at a site near Murupara.
* November 29 - Michael Langford, 28. Pinned between logs
- By Andrew Koubaridis of the New Zealand Herald