Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper says the resumption of forestry industry operations is a timely boost to the New Zealand economy, and he is urging the public to be aware and to take care as log trucks return to the region’s roads.
Under alert Level 4, the forestry industry was deemed non-essential, bringing a halt to New Zealand’s third-largest export earner. However, activity has been able to resume at Level 3 under strict health and safety procedures.
“Forestry industry exports are worth more than $6 billion a year to New Zealand and have become a steadily growing aspect of trade through Port Taranaki. In recent years the port has experienced record growth year-on-year, including a 26.9% increase in log trade in the last financial year. So the industry is incredibly important to the nation’s economy and this region’s economy,” Mr Roper said.
“It’s extremely heartening forestry activity can return under Level 3 and the industry has done a lot of work to ensure it can operate safely throughout the supply chain and adhere to the Government’s COVID-19 protocols.”
Just a few days into operating at Level 3, Mr Roper said Port Taranaki had already welcomed more than 100 log trucks to the port, and this was expected to increase as forestry sites returned to greater activity and more logs were harvested and moved.
The first wagons of Port Taranaki’s resumed logs-on-rail service from Whanganui arrived today, with a consistent service expected by mid-May.
“As a business and region, it’s great to see more Taranaki industry on the move and operating, but we want everyone to stay safe. So, with log trucks back on the roads and coming to port, and numbers expected to increase, we please ask that everyone be aware and alert to the trucks travelling on the region’s roads and through town centres.”
As a lifeline utility, during alert Level 4 Port Taranaki provided essential supply chain services to the oil and gas, and agriculture industries. Although no logs could come to port, those that were already on-site were able to be shipped to enable space to be cleared for potential use by other cargo deemed essential.
“We still had log vessels loading at Port Taranaki, alongside vessels helping ensure New Zealand’s oil and gas industry and agriculture industry provided the energy and food supplies the country needs.”
Mr Roper said that with more people on-site during Level 3, the health and safety of all Port Taranaki staff and users remained paramount. Physical distancing, stringent hand hygiene, and the use of personal protective equipment continued to be enforced, and port users were required to have a Pandemic Response Plan that ensured the protection of workers and the public.
“We continue to have staff working from home where possible, and are ensuring all those working on-site are protected and safety protocols are followed.
“We’re really pleased to be able to support these industries and help make a real difference to Taranaki and New Zealand as we begin the economic recovery from COVID-19,” Mr Roper said.