Silviculture: Good people, good business

Silviculture: Good people, good business

Migrant workers play an increasingly important role in silviculture. FISC CEO, Joe Akari, talked to KTM Silviculture’s Troy Mason about how he ensures the working relationship is successful for him and his Fijian workers. 

Troy Mason reckons the key to success when employing migrant workers is to treat them like you’d want to be treated yourself.

Since July 2022 Troy has added 11 Fijian workers to his Masterton-based silviculture crews. The co-owner of KTM Silviculture, with his wife Kelly, says the Fijian workers have helped him to continue to expand and build a high-production operation. 

“I decided to bring them in because we had a huge workload and they’re reliable and hardworking guys,” he says.

Troy (Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu) says he knew that, for the working relationship to be successful, he had to manage the social and emotional impact on his Fijian workers of being so far away from their families and communities. 

“Being away from your family for such a long time is hard – I couldn’t do it. So I was aware that I had to make them feel welcome, make them feel like part of our family.”

So he set about integrating them into his Kiwi crew and the local Masterton community. 

“We got them involved in our local rugby club, Pioneer Māori Rugby. They’ve gone hunting and diving with me and the crew. The local community has been very accepting of them – they’re part of the whānau around here now.”

Troy thought it was important that the Fijian workers had somewhere to call home, rather than living in motels or camping grounds. So he’s taken long-term leases on two homes for them. 

While all the workers had basic forestry training before they arrived, he’s continued to upskill them with additional training and assessments.  

“Now they’re all competent across the board – something they’re proud of,” he adds.

Troy wanted to offer his workers a future in the industry, so he’s been supporting them to get three-year visas. 

“An extra benefit of that is that, once they’ve got their three-year visas, we’ve been able to send people home for a couple of weeks to visit their families – which means a lot to them.”

Respect both ways

When asked about restrictions some employers place on what their migrant workers can do out of work time, Troy says his approach is to treat his workers the way he’d like to be treated. 

“We don’t try and rule them. They’re human beings, they’re adults. Four of them have been to university, one used to manage a hotel, and another was in the navy. We respect them and they respect us.

“We try to make them feel at home here, so they have a community to socialise with, and good things to do after work and at the weekend like hunting or fishing or playing rugby. That way they’re not bored or lonely.”

One thing Troy’s workers really appreciate is how he pays them. 

“All our workers start on...

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