New Zealand Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly is applauding an announcement into the review of the forestry code of practice.
Ms Kelly was in Whakatane for a Labour luncheon and told the Rotorua Daily Post she was pleased to see WorkSafe New Zealand would review the Forest Approved Code of Practice, with proposed changes to improve the safety of workers and clarify expectations and responsibilities for operators.
"It's also great to see the appointment by forest owners of an independent panel to conduct a major review into the appalling record we have of health and safety in the forestry industry."
Ms Kelly clearly recalls her initial glance into the country's forestry industry.
She was involved in a Close Up programme debating the issue of random drug testing of beneficiaries, a show that drew 17000 text responses from the public.
Ms Kelly decided to take an in-depth look at the country's forestry practices after it was used as an example of an industry that successfully conducted drug testing.
"After reading everything I could get my hands on, I remember thinking 'this is murder'," she said.
That was in September 2012. Now 19 months down the track, Ms Kelly admits her campaign to make forestry a safer industry has become an obsession.
"For myself and for families who have lost a loved one in the bush, every day is spent watching and praying another person is not seriously hurt or killed.
"It's actually a terrible campaign to be involved in."
She said it was important forestry employers encouraged their workers to take part in the new review through Forestry First Union-organised events, to ensure all views were heard.
Since 2013, the Forestry First Union, a union-backed community organisation, has been working to provide forestry workers, their families and their communities with the space to share their stories and organise collectively for better working conditions.
"Forestry First is a whanau union, we're trying a new model, and we do nothing without support of the members. Everything is driven by them."
The review is expected to take six months.
"However there are a number of changes I would like to see take place immediately. I would like to see Labour Minister Simon Bridges regulate the hours of work to control the fatigue many of the forestry workers face.
"Many of them leave home at 4am and do not return until after 7pm, then they get up the next day and do it all again - sometimes six days a week."
Ms Kelly said there was so much focus on drug testing forestry workers but no one seemed concerned about extreme fatigue. "We all know what it is like to be sleep deprived. There are no lighting requirements when people are working early in the morning or late at night and there are no rules about very hot or very cold temperatures these workers work in.
"We need to look at the training provided and take away the ability for the employer to deem a worker incompetent or not.
"We need to stop the deaths happening in a growing industry. Our forestry death rate is double that of Australia and higher in comparison with Europe."
She said forest owners needed across-the-board standards for forest workers to remove the competition between contractors over labour costs.
"These standards should include proper pay rates, hours of work, travel time compensation, compensation for bad weather call-offs, training provisions and shelter.
"If these were in place and priced properly, all forest owners would have to meet the cost of them in the contracting process and share a bit more of the profit with the rest of the industry.
"The share of profits that went to workers in the industry fell again in 2011 from a high of 70 per cent in the late 1980s, to 19.8 per cent. It continues to fall - and as it does, the work gets more dangerous."
In May the union will be providing legal representation to the families involved in a Rotorua Coronial Inquest into the deaths of five forestry workers from Rotorua and the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
"This is the first time forestry families will have legal representation at an inquest and it means evidence presented can be questioned."
Ms Kelly believes the two-day inquest will be another public review of the forestry industry.
April 28 is International Workers Memorial Day and events have been planned for the capital including a probable demonstration on the steps of the Beehive.
The Combined Trade Union and Forestry First Union members will also be hosting localised events on Waitangi Day.