Growing up on a diary farm and working as a registered nurse, Christine Axtens didn’t always picture a future in forestry. But after meeting partner Mike, who founded Mike Harris Earthmoving, one thing led to another and she’s been working in the business for the past 20 years. Christine is passionate about highlighting the talent and skill in the industry, and attracting more great people to the vocation. Read more in our latest blog.
From a South Auckland dairy farming family, Christine went to Papakura High School before training as a nurse at Manukau Polytechnic.
“After qualifying as a nurse, I worked at Waikato and Middlemore Hospitals, before moving to Rotorua Hospital to work in the A & E dept,” she says.
“I really enjoyed the variety and challenge of nursing.”
She met partner Mike Harris in 1999 at the local rugby club, laughing that “there’s just something about a blue collared man”.
Mike started his earthmoving the business in 1996, which over the years evolved into logging.
“I took over the bookwork for Mike’s business in 2003, working from home while raising 3 children and working part time at the hospital in an administration role,” she says.
Christine also worked on completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Health Studies, which focused on Quality and Risk, H & S, Leadership and Management and Clinical Governance.
“I learnt these actually cross over into the logging arena.”
Fast forward to the present day, and the business has two crews plus a log truck, with a total of 11 employees and a subcontractor, supported by Christine in the office.
“I am the general dogsbody doing the jobs that support the teams to do their roles effectively and safely,” says Christine.
“I look after our office, run our Xero cashbook/invoicing system, MYOB payroll, pricing and budgeting, principle reporting, monitoring risks to our business, insurance claims and capital expenditure, fleet management, supporting our Health and Safety consultant – the list goes on.”
Christine says she and Mike work well as a team.
“We have learnt over the years what each other’s skill sets are and trust each other with our own knowledge sets,” she says.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when I see the team hit their goals, developing team members and working together.”
She has been a member of the Women in Forestry Network for the past few years.
“I enjoy and respect the Women in Forestry group because there are a lot of like-minded people that understand the pressures, challenges and restrictions of working in a logging situation.”
Christine says one of the most challenging aspects of the job is the lack of kudos and respect given to loggers in general.
“One of my frustrations is the lack of respect given to loggers by our country and from other businesses. Our vocation employs a large amount of people that do not ‘achieve’ in the schooling system, so they are often drawn to the nature of logging and excel.”
“Because they don’t necessarily have schooling credits they’re sometimes seen as ‘not clever’. But they are highly intelligent – they can see volume, inclines, read maps, move dirt, logs and see and assess risks in ways that traditional book learning has not yet valued or rewarded.”
“Our occupation has so many skill-sets and as a community we need to market what we do as a highly skilled, safe and professional, to encourage young people to enter.”
“We need to highlight their intelligence and skills – just because they wear fluro with paint and diesel stains, doesn’t mean they aren’t clever. I see their skill set as their superpower – let’s highlight it!”