The opportunity to work in an industry that’s aligned with her values attracted NML Planner Heather Arnold to forestry. With a Masters in Physical Geography Heather embarked on a career in resource management in the local government sector. “That’s when I really got a strong feeling and evidence that forestry is a sustainable and appropriate land use. Plantation forestry is a very long term, sustainable business.
In 1997 Heather became an environmental planner for Carter Holt Harvey. “The job gave me a really good understanding of the business’ environmental requirements and operational needs. My grounding in natural earth science helped me understand the forestry processes. So when it came to harvest planning and working out where we were going to set out a road, I understood what the geology and topography would allow us to do.”
In her current role Heather acts as the interface between local government and the business, working within the requirements of the Resource Management Act. She also looks after NML’s access to ensure that it can undertake operations where and when it needs to. “It’s almost community and third party license to operate management. It includes ensuring that if our neighbours have any issues they’re dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner. We welcome feedback about our standards and operations. I am also involved in environmental management from an operational perspective, which includes staff and crew training, review and development of our environmental management standards and Forest Stewardship Certification.” Heather is also a highly-regarded NZQA assessor for forestry environmental unit standards.
After 18 years in forestry, 14 of those with NML, Heather has noticed quite a change in terms of women working in the industry.
“In those days (the mid 1990s) women were in the minority. You’d organise training and there’d be you and 12 or 15 men. Initially you were treated differently as a woman – especially when talking to the harvesting crews because they would swear and then they would go “Oh, sorry!” Whereas really this doesn’t happen anymore.”
Despite being in a minority in those days Heather was always taken seriously. “There were never any issues with that at all.”
Heather says that while there is definitely more of a gender balance in the office environment now there’s certainly not that balance in the field. “It’s still very male dominated. Within NML there are many women in a variety of jobs who are great role models.”
It’s still the ethical fit that is at the heart of it all for Heather. “I love the industry. I love that it’s sustainable and aligns with my environmental ethics. I love working here because there’s a huge amount of trust and autonomy to do your job. People do their best and there’s the flexibility and acceptance that people have lives outside the business. You can fit in school activities around your work. The worth of that is immeasurable. The ability for a business to be flexible with work hours to help meet the needs of families is really important for attracting and retaining staff.
“I work with a professional team of people. Everybody is incredibly knowledgeable in what they do and have the business’ interests at heart. You know you can ask someone a question and you’ll get a straight answer.”
Until recently Heather managed NML’s scholarship programme and is still keen to see young talent attracted to a career in forestry, especially talented young women who might not naturally consider the industry for their career path.
“It’s a truly transferable career. You can move around the country, you can travel internationally with it. You can grow within the industry.
“There are a wide variety of jobs within forestry. It’s not all about using a chainsaw. Being tough and strong isn’t enough. These days it’s a lot more about using your head. We must deliver on our social and environmental responsibilities. The days of motor manual processing are just about over.
“We’re living in a massive technological age and the future’s going to be robots on slopes and computer programmers. I love my job because every day’s different. I see myself being in a role where I continue to be challenged and developed, and where I add value every day – without being the CEO!”