Episode 19: Girl in the Bush
Screened 28 July at 7pm on TV ONE:
Episode 19, Girl in the Bush
Teenager Stormy Merritt had big reservations when her father offered her a job on a logging site inland from Gisborne - living in the bush with a group of guys an hour from the nearest café or bar didn't appeal.
But there are few employment opportunities in her home area of Eastern Bay of Plenty, even if you've done well at school and you're vivacious, good-looking and willing to give anything a go.
Stormy's dad Turoa runs two logging gangs and has a big milling contract in the Mangatu Forest, about 40 kilometres from Gisborne. She agreed to help out on site with health and safety book-work.
That was three years ago and now, at 21, Stormy Merritt is a highly skilled bush worker and the first woman to win New Zealand's top forestry apprenticeship award.
She says her fellow workers accepted her as "one of the boys" right from the start and there was no preferential treatment for being the boss's daughter - in fact she reckons her father was tougher on her than anyone else.
She quickly graduated from paper work to driving heavy machinery, including the massive hauler that lifts felled logs to the site where the gang processes them.
It's a job that takes skill and concentration - from the cab high above the skid site, the operator controls the flow of timber and supervises worker safety.
Stormy drives the hauler with youthful nonchalance but says she'd prefer to be down on the ground with the rest of the gang.
She's also confident being in charge of the waratah, a machine that trims branches and most of the bark off felled logs and then cuts them into lengths.
It's a job that requires care and precision because the waratah operator has to make cuts that will get the greatest amount of quality timber from each log.
But despite her ease with big machines, Stormy's no tom-boy. She likes getting her hair done, paints her nails, plays netball on the weekends, and enjoys going out with her friends.
Stormy says she's lucky to have her parents backing her chosen career and to have other relatives in the industry - her grandmother works in the family business and her younger brother is also in forestry.
To find out more about Stormy's apprenticeship award,
Other sites, www.nzfoa.org.nz
To watch a waratah in action, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq9eZ_zEpog