Tokelauan logger hopes to lure more Pasifika into forestry
Taupo local Founuku Iona is carrying on the legacy of his Tokelauan predecessors who migrated to the Waikato during the 1960s and worked in forestry. Now he’s hoping other Pacific people will follow suit.
He’s one of the forestry workers from Taupo who gets up early every weekday for a 45-minute journey north to a harvesting site in Kinleith Forest.
“I can honestly admit getting out of bed is probably the hardest thing when you first start as a logger, adjusting yourself to these hours, but being in the bush and building yourself with that routine, you just automatically get up.”
Founuku has been in the industry for over a decade and is now the foreman of the crew – basically the head honcho – and one of the only Pacific Islanders in the country to hold that position.
“I love this kind of job, eh, and it’s good for your health too.”
Tokelauans have a proud history in forestry stretching back to the 1960s, when many were relocated from the islands to the Waikato through a government resettlement scheme.
“My dad, my mum’s dad, my grandfather Emani, he was part of that lot that went into the forestry…”
“It’s doing them proud and carrying on that tradition of hard work and being thankful for that first generation of Tokelauans that came over from the islands.”
Times have changed drastically for the industry since the 1960s, with much of the manpower slowly giving way to technology, but it hasn’t changed the stigma that still exists today.
“I suppose people have that mentality of the bushman being a lot of dropouts, or the deadbeats that got nothing, you know, but it’s far from it.”
“It requires a lot planning and making sure everyone’s on the same page. So it’s not just coming out here and swinging axes, you know. We gotta come out here and produce a target, and a target productively and safely.”
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By Anauli Karima Fai’ai.