Nelson Forests Ltd contractor Rai Silviculture values its workers. Owner and director David Koubek encourages all staff to continue to learn and supports them to gain qualifications. Silviculture is hard, physically demanding work. Workers are out on the hillsides of the top of the South, working in all conditions, planting trees, thinning, pruning, and spraying, making the pine forests the best they can be for harvest.
But while they are working hard, the crewmen working for Nelson Forests Ltd contractors Rai Silviculture are also learning. In May, five Rai Silviculture workers were awarded level 3 certificates in different aspects of silviculture in a special ceremony in Renwick.
Rai Silviculture owner and director David Koubek is originally from the Czech Republic. He has made a home and a business here, and he is passionate about the forestry industry and its benefits for people.
As part of that, he actively encourages his staff to continue learning and to study for qualifications to demonstrate their skills. And the awards ceremony gives him an opportunity to demonstrate that, with support from Nelson Forests Ltd and training provider Competenz. David says each of his workers has achieved something really special and that was worth celebrating.
“That’s what forestry is,” says David, “and these are the guys setting the standard for forestry. They’re going to be the leaders.”
Nelson Forests managing director Lees Seymour says forestry is a great industry.
“It trains people, and it provides opportunities for people to earn an income and to learn new things.”
He congratulated the five workers on their achievements, saying they should be proud of their hard work.
“It’s not easy work, this is a great achievement.”
Lees says he himself started in silviculture at 15.
“My father encouraged me to get skills, to get the certificates I needed to do the job. He wanted me to do it well and to do it safely – like you guys today. This achievement is fantastic.”
Competenz’s Tom Snodgrass says he enjoys watching an employer like David developing their staff.
“He’s developing a work environment that people want to be in, one that suits everyone in that environment, where it stays the same as people move in and out.
Addressing the crew, Tom added “There’s a challenge for you guys in that environment – follow in his footsteps, get in his slipstream. take opportunities.”
Nelson Forests forestry planner Denis Parsons manages silviculture operations, managing the day-to-day operations, whether planting, thinning, or spot spraying. He works with Rai Silviculture and visits the crew once a week. Denis says he’s impressed with how David has run his company, growing from three staff when he started to the multiple crews he now has. David’s ability to recruit staff is a big positive for Nelson Forests, Denis says.
“Without David, we’d be struggling to achieve our work programmes… We set him personnel targets and he achieves them. That’s a big thing.”
David encourages his staff to “aim for something”, Denis says.
“He encourages training. He likes to see them make it through. He likes to see this sort of thing happening.”
Another thing that David does which really benefits Nelson Forests is that his staff are all trained firefighters, Denis says.
“Almost all his guys were in Nelson with the recent fires… Silviculture guys are always sought after at fires because of their physical capabilities. That’s a big plus for us, knowing we have good cover during incidents of that kind.”
Two of the five men recognised at the recent event for their training achievements are foremen of crews with Rai Silviculture – Shane Grant and David Alifeo.
David Alifeo is from the Solomon Islands, and has been here 12 years, working for Rai Silviculture for the past six years. He says that study wasn’t really a focus where he came from.
“You just do the thing and learn from experience. Here, they will recommend you do certificate. It’s quite different. I’m really happy about it.”
He plans on doing more study.
“I’m keen to keep going till I know everything and qualify.”
Shane Grant says he has been in the forestry business for 20 years, but this is the first crew he’s been in that has encouraged him to get qualifications.
“I’ve been here with David for three and a half years and I’ve finally got it. I’m pretty stoked really.”
It’s recognition of hard work and enjoyment of the job, Shane says. He plans to do more study towards other qualifications. He says the study is on the job, but also takes a bit of time after work as well.
“I have three young kids at home, I’m trying to do the books – it takes a bit. My partner is a qualified early childhood teacher. She puts the kids to bed and she helps me.”
He says the stuff he’s learnt over the years means he has been able to give the guys on his crew a hand.
Two of the crewmen – Michal Milotinsky and Ladislav Rehorek – are from the Czech Republic.
Michal says he came to Marlborough because a friend was working here.
“In the Czech Republic. I played ice hockey, I quit, thinking about what would be next, he called me and I came here.”
The friend got him a meeting with Dave, and for the past four years he has been working at Rai Silviculture.
“At the beginning, it was hard, but with ice hockey, I had some fitness.”
Ladislav says language was a barrier for him, but the guys on his crew taught him a lot.
“The guys support me a lot, they teach me from the beginning. I started five years ago. The first month, I wanted to give up, I wasn’t fit. it was really hard. I was a prison guard in the Czech Republic, so working here was quite different.”
He has worked at Rai Silviculture for five years now, and says he is “so happy” to get his qualification.
“I would like to do more study, I would like to carry on. The company is very supportive.”
Joseva Nawaqavonovono says he loves working in the forestry industry. It was hard when he started four years ago, when he didn’t know anything about the job, but he was helped by others.
“Now I get to help other people, now I’ve got experience. This gives me options to help others learn how our industry works.”
Joseva and Shane both cite providing examples for their children as key. Shane says his “young fella” is now six years old and loves forestry and its tools. Joseva says when he and his children drive to Nelson or Kaikoura, he shows them the forestry plantings.
“I show them the hills, show them all the trees I have planted. They can tell other kids when going on school trips, my dad planted those trees.”
Article published in WildTomato magazine 1 June 2019