City Forests boss after smooth start when work resumes

Grant Dodson
Grant Dodson
City Forests will probably return to work next Tuesday and, after what has been seemingly endless disruption this year, chief executive Grant Dodson is wary of a case of Covid-19 turning up at the workplace.

‘‘That would just be a disaster.

‘‘If we were to have an instance of Covid-19 in our business ... that would cause the whole part of the business to be shut down for probably quite a number of weeks until all the sources and contacts have been discovered and eliminated.’’

With China oversupplied in logs and shutting down leading into the Chinese New Year in January, many forestry companies slowed down production  in February as Covid-19 spread across the world.

Eventually, New Zealand went into lockdown and forestry work was not designated an essential service.

The company is allowed to get back to work on Tuesday if the country does  go to Alert Level 3.

‘‘City Forests is very keen to get back to work and so is the rest of the forestry industry,’’ Mr Dodson said.

The Dunedin City Council company’s strong balance sheet meant it would be able to make up the financial impact of the lockdown in  six to  12 months,he said.

‘‘We’re fortunate in the fact that our trees are still producing ... it’s just we’re not harvesting them.

‘‘The company will have some harvest to catch up on and the money we would have got from harvesting those trees over the last two months will be gathered in the future.’’

With forestry having continued in countries such as Canada and Australia, does Mr Dodson think his industry should have been allowed to continue work?

‘‘I would have liked to have seen a little more activity in forestry than what occurred.

‘‘It is what it is. We’ve had our break, we’ve certainly been successful at reducing the impact of the virus and now it’s time to get back to work and ensure that, firstly, we rebuild the economy and, secondly, that the virus doesn’t get away on us.’’

However, he said that ongoing disruption was a major concern.

‘‘There has been a significant financial impact to all businesses in New Zealand and employers, contractors and corporates like ourselves... we’ve been closed down.

‘‘That just can’t happen again, we’ve got to make sure we operate safely and keep going.’’

Workers would need to be careful after a long period off the tools to avoid any accidents, Mr Dodson said.

The Forest Industry Safety Council had developed a ‘‘back-to-work’’ protocols document for all aspects of forestry from nurseries right through to processing plants and port operations.

Mr Dodson said City Forests had orders from export and domestic mills, which enabled it to get back to work with confidence.

‘‘Everything’s going to be starting up... we’ll begin our silviculture work, we’ll begin our harvesting and trucking and roading operations.’’

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