A woman forestry worker who wanted to cut it in a man's world says she became "the biggest bitch in the bush" to fit in - and then got sacked anyway.
The Employment Relations Authority this week awarded Ruatoria woman Matewai Paenga almost $14,000 for unjustified dismissal from Northland company Te Haumi Logging, after an exchange with her boss that would make a longshoreman blush.
Now she's in a new job, and she's laughing at the "bulls***" that she says is spouted by the likes of EMA boss Alasdair Thompson about women's frailty in the workplace.
"Women's problems have never stopped me from going to work," she said.
Paenga was working as a log maker between Tokomaru and Tologa Bays when the foreman announced "some f***w** has f***** up the log marking".
The foreman alleged Paenga told him to "shove his f***** job" and yelled "I'm finished".
He thought she was resigning but she denied the exchange - and ERA member Rachel Larmer ruled that it was unlikely to have occurred.
The foreman also alleged Paenga called him a "two faced c***". She did not recall that exchange, but accepted she may have called him that.
Paenga told the Herald on Sunday she started working in the industry 15 years ago.
"I saw an ad for a cable logging course and thought, I'm sure I could do that."
Of the eight women on the course, Paenga is the only one still in the bush.
"It wasn't a woman's place. I was told by a number of people I'd never make it and that made me more determined. Men in Ruatoria are staunch - they think women are to be seen and not heard, but women from Ngati Porou stand up for themselves, we don't give up."
Carrying strawlines through creeks and up hills wasn't easy. "I just put my head down and did it. I was carrying heavy chainsaws near on eight hours every day and men started to see what I could do."
She began working for Te Haumi in January last year as a log maker, quality controller and safety officer.
"I love my work and know my job. I always set a high standard in the bush."
She didn't realise her situation would end up in a court.
"I found it long and draining, but it was honesty that got me through."
Paenga said she used bad language to make it easier for men to understand her. "You throw a swear word in here and there and they'd start to laugh. You've got to make it fun when it's pouring with rain and you're up to your knees in mud."
The character depicted was different from how she was at home. "Everyone knows I'm the biggest bitch in the bush."By Andre Hueber Email Andre