Northland's Paul Barton reckons you're never to old to learn or work and he would know.

At 71 he is still felling trees and has recently completed a raft of formal qualifications to ensure he meets health and safety standards.

The Whakapara resident started working in the forestry industry 46 years ago at the age of 25.

"I started scrub cutting with an axe then I graduated to a chainsaw. I like the fresh air," he said.


Yesterday Mr Barton received his National Certificate in Tree Felling and at the same time was honoured for his outstanding achievements and long service to the forest industry.

Mr Barton, who is a man of few words, is described by those who know him as a hard worker - although he says he is a smart worker. He has spent the past two years completing a range of formal qualifications through NorthTec which has been "extremely supportive" of him.

Despite having completed plenty of training over the years, his boss, Blackheart Logging Ltd co-owner Alex Critchfield, said Mr Barton's full training history was lost or never followed through by those in charge and with new training requirements, he was required to gain formal qualifications.

"If you wanted to continue in the industry with the compliance OSH regulations you had to...Basically the system let him down," he said.

Bur Mr Barton loved working so he didn't let that get in the way. He has now been working for Blackheart Logging for the past two years and Mr Critchfield said Mr Barton was a natural bush man at heart. He was careful, respected the environment and was a master of his craft, he said.

"Knowing how old he was I was a little apprehensive but I decided to take him on. I don't regret it, he works harder than some of these young fellas these days," said Mr Critchfield.

Mr Barton works five days a week when the weather is good - sometimes seven. His wife Virginia said when he is not working he gets hoha (annoyed) so he also works at home. During the weekends he cuts firewood and does gardening, after work he will do the dishes and before bed he does his "homework", she said.

"I'm proud of him but I feel sorry for him because I kiss him goodbye and think 'I'm still sitting in front of a warm fire.' But he's happy - as long as there is a kai, he is happy."

When asked what Mr Barton would say to people who thought they were too old to learn, he said "you're never told to learn".