Rheeco admits he would be up to ‘nothing good’ if he wasn’t where he is now. Currently he’s deep in the Kaingaroa forest, using a chainsaw to cut down trees with a thinning crew.
Guided by his dad into the Level 2 Forestry Certificate at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Rheeco has learned skills that will take him far in the future. He has money, he has fitness, and he has goals.
“I’m way more organised now. I’m saving up to buy gym gear and get my driver’s licence,” says Rheeco.
Rheeco was 15 when he left school, bored and with little on the cards for the future. His dad, Franz, frustrated with Rheeco’s lack of direction, approached his workplace to take a chance on his boy.
Franz manages the crew Rheeco is part of and is quietly proud of how far his son has come.
“He’s changed so much; he’s matured pretty fast,” says Franz.
Rheeco’s kaiako (teachers) and mentors agree. Shand Edwardson, a kaiako at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, teaches the Level 2 certificate, which focuses on planting and pruning.
Shand works closely with Joe Taute of Mahi Rākau, a forestry management and silviculture company. Together they work to provide hands-on experience and education for tauira in the forest itself.
Joe says the aim of his mahi is to nurture tauira and get them in the right headspace.
For Rheeco, it’s been a challenge he’s surprisingly enjoyed, especially the competitive nature within a good crew. He found the bookwork challenging, but Shand was able to help him complete it with a bit of creative thinking.
It’s a physical role with long days, but satisfying and rewarding when the money comes in. Rheeco is grateful for the support he’s had along the way, and when he compares his current life to that of some mates, he knows he’s better off.
“It’s been a good choice for me. If you want to work outside, earn good money, and meet good people, then you should do it too,” says Rheeco.
With the growth of forestry in Aotearoa, workers are always in demand. With the combined forces of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and forest management company, Mahi Rākau, young people can learn the theory and skills required to begin a rewarding forestry career.
Find out more about our forestry programme.