Hard graft for forester

Nathan Fogden travels an average of 70,000km a year around the Central North Island's forests.

He has been involved in forestry for 20 years and knows what it's like to put in the hard graft.

It is one of the toughest jobs in the country, he says. The hours are long, it's physically demanding, and he has to battle unpredictable weather conditions because the "trees won't plant themselves".

But those experiences have enabled him to start his own venture.

Today, it's Fogden giving the orders and he has earned the respect of his crew due to his own staunch ethics.

He established IntaWood Forestry in 1997, a silviculture business that services the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, the East Cape and Coromandel.

Based in Te Puke, the company employs 50 people. Last winter it planted 2.5 million trees, a number expected to be repeated this season.

Fogden says a lot has changed in forestry over the past 20 years and being the boss isn't always easy.

"In the past, forestry had received a bad rap for its drug and drinking culture - an image the industry addressed through the introduction of drug testing and health and safety regulations," he says.

"That radically changed employer responsibilities."

And while Fogden is a firm supporter of the scheme, despite the extra workload, compliance and cost, he questions the need for an accreditation system.

"I think contractors who follow all the rules should be recognised and utilised by the growers, and that could be achieved through accreditation.

"Unfortunately, there are some cowboys out there that are slipping through the cracks."

Quality control has also improved.

"There are higher standards when it comes to quality control," he says. "We do planting, pruning and thinning... everything involved in silviculture. We set up the forests mainly for corporate clients and look after them for about 12 or 15 years before they're harvested further down the track. However, I've seen a reduction in pruning."

He believes it is because of a cost-versus-return scenario but that could change in the future.

Fogden says he got his big break four years into his stint as a planter/pruner and was offered a contract of his own.

He seized the opportunity and credits his team for helping him build the business.

"I've got my rock stars, grunters, star performers, greenhorns and loyal long-timers who have been with me for years. It's really good when you see the guys make a go of it."

- Hamilton News

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