Women are making the cut in forestry
Balanced on the bonnet of a forestry ute, Veronica Hall's freshly baked chocolate cake is carefully sliced and eagerly devoured by her workmates – loggers in hi-viz marked with grease and mud.
A cold wind carries the smell of fresh cut pine and the view from the ridgeline looking toward the St Arnaud Range, south of Nelson, is spectacular.
The CWL crew's two diggers, hauler, and Bell timber grab are silent for the smoko break.
Nannying had been an option for Hall when she left school. Then her forester father invited her to the skid site and put her in a hauler. That was 20 years ago.
"I said I would stay a year and get out – and here I am."
Hall's one of two women working for crew boss Willy Waldren. Her time is spent operating either one of the diggers or the three-wheeled Bell.
"The big thing is working around guys," said Hall, 38.
"You go to work, do the job and go home. We are a team and everyone works together. There are no egos."
Married with two children Hall said the hard part was the long hours. The work van picks her up from her Brightwater gate at 5.45am and drops her home at 5pm.
"When I first started with Dad I had to prove myself because I was family rather than because I was a girl.
"In this crew no-one is sexist, but if you are not confident and good at your job it would be difficult."
Hall said the perception logging was dangerous was wrong."It's only dangerous if you make it so.
"I love my job. I don't enjoy being away from my family, but I will not give it up."
Workmate Karla Te Tau's also been working in forestry around 20 years. She cuts up on the skid or operates machinery.
She started in forestry on the West Coast with her partner at the time when she was 19.
"I love everything about it. We get paid to play with the machines.
"I love operating machinery or swinging the chainsaw – I love the adrenaline.
"If someone had asked me when I left school what I wanted to do it would not have been logging. I just fell into it."
Working in a full production crew meant there was no slacking, she said.
Te Tau, 38, has worked with a number of crews and said it could take time for the men to adjust to having a woman in their midst.
"But having a sense of humour helps.
"I have a reputation for proving myself. I like to be the first out and the last back.
"You have to have an edge and earn respect. And the respect goes both ways."
Waldren said the crew had been together for about a year and the men really liked working with the women.
"They are good at their jobs and for me they are good on the gear and on communication – I have no issues at all.
"Karla and Veronica have been working in logging for years, they know what the industry is like. And they are both mothers and have no qualms about telling the guys off."
He said women had to be good to stay in forestry.
"They are never going to be bigger or stronger, so they have to be better."
In Waimea Contract Carrier's yard Tania Buschl's dwarfed by her Scania log truck. The 38-year-old started driving 17-years ago and worked her way up to carrying logs.
"I'm on the night shift from 11.30am to 1.30am. It's a big night and five days a week. I don't really have a life.
"But I love the freedom and being out on the road and I like being on my own.
"I've been at Waimea for three-and-a-half years and am happy - it's a good company."
Buschl took courses to get her licences, but said it was hard to get her first job "because no one initially wanted me with no experience".
"I think it's easier for women to get in now, and I do recommend it, although it takes a certain type of person."
"You have to like working in mud and put up with snowy icy conditions and rain.
"And the forestry roads can be challenging when it's icy and you are out there on your own in the dark.
"When I first started, the crews would take one look at me and it was like, 'here we go'.
"They accept me now and we get on really well, so it's got better."
Waimea Contract Carriers executive director Jenny McIntyre said Buschl was one of the company's top performers.
"She's got a huge work ethic, she wants to work the hours, puts gender aside and is not scared to speak up if she sees someone doing something unsafe.
"She got lots of attitude, is proud of what she does and is a really valued member of the team."