How hard is it to plant trees for a living? Lisa Owen finds out

There are fears the government’s goal to plant one billion trees by 2028 could be toppled by a chronic labour shortage. 

The goal is to plant a mix of a billion native and exotic trees by 2028 –  to support a low emission economy, protect the environment and create ongoing employment. 

The Ministry of Social Development alone is looking to recruit 750 people into forestry jobs just this season, but forestry bosses say it’s difficult to get and keep workers in what is a physically demanding job. 

Some contractors report up to 80 percent absenteeism in some field gangs. 

So just how hard is it to plant trees? Checkpoint decided to find out by using host Lisa Owen as a guinea-pig “planter” for a day. 

With producer Bridget Burke and cameraman Nick Monro, she headed to the back of Kinleith, close to Tokoroa and was put to the test. 

She was briefed to expect hill work (“like the lunar suface of the Moon”, Lisa reckons) and to avoid cyanide that may have been left in the area.

Each planter carried a box weighing about 12kg of 100 tree seedlings on their back as they set off to begin their work. The plan was to work in a grid to plant a seedling every three metres. 

Lisa said her first box earned her $25, some of the hardest dollars she’s ever earned. 

How hard is it to plant trees for a living? Lisa Owen finds out
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