Worker shortage flagged for one billion trees programme

A lack of workers to plant trees for the Government's one billion trees campaign has highlighted wider labour shortages in the forestry industry.

Despite pay rates of up to $400 a day, forestry nurseries are finding it difficult to find workers to plant seedlings, potentially slowing the programme.

Patrick Murray, of Murrays Nurseries at Woodville told Stuff his nursery had doubled plantings of pinus radiata from 5m to 10m trees in the last year, with Crown Forestry contracting a lot of the trees. 

He said he was able to expand further, but has turned down more business due to the worry about not having enough staff.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir said while the planting season itself starts in June, the shortages for nursery workers indicates some challenges ahead.

"The expectation is there will be some challenges introduced by the one billion trees scale up," he said.

He said last year the industry was at capacity during planting season," he said.

"There are 50 percent more trees being grown to be planted this year and we do have some concerns about where the tree planters will come from," said Mr Weir.

He said it was a healthy situation, and is confident the industry work its way through it - suggesting that enabling contractors to bring workers in Tonga and Fiji could be a solution.

"Minister Shane Jones has made it clear that businesses must offer full wrap around pastoral care for those workers."

He said that was the challenge for many small business to offer food and accommodation.

"The horticulture industry has done it, it's up to the forestry industry to do the same."

Anyone looking for jobs in the forestry industry should contact their local forestry nursery.