Chainsaw Chicks: Life in Rural New Zealand



I was once concerned that living out in the country might get a tad boring. Not that we’re living in the country full time yet, but we’ve managed to log about two weeks a month here in Wainui over the last few months And hopefully, once we’re back from our May state-side visit, we’ll shift out here for good, just in time for winter.


Reading the local rag recently, The Akaroa Mail, I came upon an advertisement by Rural Women in NZ offering a free two-day chainsaw course for women. It was titled “Chainsaw Chicks.” Who could resist? I immediately called and signed up.

There was an overwhelming response to the ad and several dates were offered for the course. I did mine on April 12th & 13th.

The course was run by Agribusiness NZ and our instructor, Matt Durning, had worked for the forestry service for many years and was an excellent instructor. There were eight of us for this particular weekend course and I was one of the youngest, with the oldest probably in her early 60’s. Several had used chainsaws; most of us had not.

Day one was the ‘theory’ day and we spent six hours talking about chainsaw safety (how to assess your site, proper gear to wear, issues relating to the Health & Safety In Employment Act); and chainsaw operation and maintenance (the nine safety features on the chainsaw, refueling, taking apart and cleaning the chain, how to sharpen the cutters and maintain depth gauges, how to properly start the saw). Needless-to-say I was a bit overwhelmed as I had a great big fear of using such a powerful machine. During one of the breaks I had to ask (recalling ‘The Chainsaw Massacre” and other such horror movies), “So, can one really accidentally saw off one’s limb?” To which he replied, ‘No, but you can seriously harm yourself,” and later on showed us several slides of mangled faces and limbs. This offered little relief to my anxiety. However, during the day we did some hands on ‘touching’ and ‘handling’ of the chain saws (ie: we did not turn them on) and I started to feel more relaxed.


Day two was ‘practical’ day and we met out by the woolshed on someone’s property. Here we spent the next six hours implementing everything we learned the day before. We suited up with our safety gear which included our hi viz vests, safety chaps, and hi viz helmet/mask/earmuff combo, and the first thing we had to do was take apart the saw and check that the chain was clean and installed properly. Once we managed that, then it was time to refuel in the safety fueling zone, and then time to power up the saws. The moment we’d been waiting for. It was pretty easy and not too scary. Then we had to practice our cuts using relatively small pieces of wood and practice our ‘form’ when cutting on the ground. Easy peasy. After lunch break we moved on to larger pieces of wood, working on a felled tree with limbs protruding at waist height. Here we had to demonstrate a downcut, upcut, and borer cut (straight into the middle). We each went one at a time and had the instructor criticise our technique. After that we each had a go at filing the saw cutters and filing the depth guages. It was a long and tiring yet worthwhile day!


All in all it was a great course and I met some neat ladies of the peninsula. Agribusiness puts on a whole host of other courses, some of which cover Fencing, Basic Tractor Skills, Farm Bike Safety, Basic Tree Felling, Deer Production, and more. See? Life is full of excitement here in the country!

Chainsaw Chicks Certificate