It's a girl group of a very different kind - meet New Zealand's first all-female forestry team.

For one of the women in the crew, Lee Taiatini, it's been a real eye-opener.

"I thought there would be challenges but the only challenge is really getting up in the morning," she said. "But that's cool."

Taiatini said other, male-dominated crews expressed some doubts but that had only helped motivate the women.


"They kind of think that we're not going to succeed in this area. But we're just here to prove them all wrong… that women can do this job. And so far, yeah it's been awesome."

The crew are working at Timberlands Kaingaroa Forest, near Waiotapu. And in this male dominated industry, one forestry company is going out on a limb.

"We're finding it hard to recruit guys or males into the industry. There's been a downturn in labour in every sector of the forestry industry and within I suppose the country," said
Joe Taute, Health and Safety Recruitment Officer for CNI.

"So next best step was to have a look at the females and see if they could handle it down here in the forest to start with. And work with them from there."

For the all-female recruitment drive, the company first looked internally, selecting former cook Truedy Taia to lead the charge.

"She's been involved with CNI for some time now, going out with crews and doing their cooking and cleaning. So it was obvious we could use her and it was just word of mouth from there," said Taute.

"I manage the girls," Taia said.

"I basically give them instructions on how to do their job, what our plans are for the day, identify all the hazards in the area and make sure they know where all our safe areas are and stuff, where our evac points are."

Taia went from cook to crew leader in just four years and, when it comes to working in a man's world, she's not one to beat around the bush.

"Women are more than capable of doing this work as well. I was happy to give it a good go to show everyone out there that us women can achieve as much as the men.

"I think we just have a better culture as women. We're a great crew together, so far.

"Everybody gets on, there's no dramas... you know when women get together there can be a whole lot of drama - but no, we're good."

Each day is an early start for the crew, who assemble at 5.30 in the morning. From there they head out into the forest, whatever the weather.

"We've been doing regen pulling - pulling out all the trees that have grown from the pine cones or pulling out the trees that have been planted too close to each other because they have specific distances that they need to be," said Pam Purdie.

"I was volunteering at the Salvation Army and studying. Then I just wanted something different and this came up. I knew it was generally male-dominated but I like being outdoors and it was something different from what I've done in the past. It was appealing that it was going to be an all women crew too.

And what's the reaction been from the guys?

"A little bit of doubt from some but that's to be expected because we're women," said Taia. "But most are pretty happy that we're giving it a go."

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