Pam Purdie was doing volunteer work with the Salvation Army, occasionally working in its Rotorua shop.
She’d also prepare food parcels for the needy.
But Pam wanted to work outdoors, so she chose a Te Wānanga o Aotearoa forestry course.
“It was a total jump out of my comfort zone,” she says.
“It was an opportunity that came up and I thought it would probably suit me, sure enough I ended up liking it. I liked that it was outdoors and that I was starting with other people in the same boat, so I didn’t feel alone, but mainly because it was outdoors.”
Pam says part of the attraction of the course was being in fulltime employment planting pine trees while studying at the same time.
Her kaiako Shand Edwardson would bring coursework out to the crews at work in the forestry blocks so they could complement their practical skills with the theoretical unit standards tauira needed for their qualification.
“We were literally learning on the job which was my preference for learning because everything sunk in quickly.”
“You’d learn about spacing for trees, how far apart and how deep they need to be, what branches to cut and which ones you don’t. What trees to pull out, fertilising and how deep the fertiliser needs to be. The books taught us everything and we got to put everything into practice on the job. It made things a lot more enjoyable, and we weren’t like ‘oh no, now we have to do school work’.”
Pam was part of an all-female forestry crew who would compete against the other predominantly male crews to see who could get the most trees planted in a day. The crew would aim to plant 40,000 trees in a 20 hectare block.
“We won the prize for the most trees planted last year. We won a fishing trip with a couple of other crews, we got a lot of snapper.”
Pam sees a future in forestry, possibly involving a mix between being out among the workers and some time in the office. She’s currently studying for a Forest Management Diploma at Toi Ohomai in Rotorua.
“I want to have the best of being outside as well as management, maybe try and climb the ranks that way.”
“I’ve seen the impact of having females coming in and having a positive impact on the industry and I’d like to open the door for other females.”