Many of the audience shed tears as Wiremu Edmonds spoke about the loss of his son at the Federation of Maori Authorities' annual meeting on Saturday.

Robert Epapara, the eldest of Mr Edmonds' five children, was killed in a forestry accident near Lake Rotoiti on March 26 last year.

Mr Edmonds, a father of five, has forgiven the man who felled the tree that hit his son, and he has spoken to 63 audiences about the incident since.

He asked the 300-plus audience at the conference to stand up if they were willing to expose unsafe practices and "give absolute commitment to each other".


Mr Epapara was working in a forestry gang when a tree fell on him in Waione Forest.

"His friend killed him at work. His friend was the leader. He took a shortcut and he got it wrong that day. It came at the expense of our losing a child," Mr Edmonds said.

He and his wife Marsella dug deep and forgave the man who felled that tree "because the gap needed to be bridged". In January the logging company responsible for Mr Epapara's death, Complete Logging Limited, was fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $75,000 by the Rotorua District Court.

Mr Edmonds has worked in the bush himself, and has been voted the forestry industry representative in ACC's new injury prevention programme.

His mission to talk about forestry safety has taken him as far as South Africa on speaking engagements. But he said policies on paper were no substitute for face-to-face relationships when battling as a safety warrior.