Logging spotlighted after heavy rains

Friday 9 Mar 2018

Regardless of the rights and wrongs around the issue, headlines on Monday in one of New Zealand’s main news sites read Forestry “Annihilation”. Not a great headline you have to admit. The story relates to the damage following the heavy rains that hit the top of the South Island, NZ from the tail-end of ex-cyclone Gita. The images that went with the story were telling.

Tasman residents want stronger controls on forestry after logging waste and debris from collapsed pine forests swept around homes in Marahau and the Motueka Valley near Nelson, NZ when ex-tropical cyclone Gita hit two weeks ago.

A petition signed by more than 3500 people was due to be handed in to Tasman District Council calling for stronger controls on the industry. Forest and Bird regional manager, Debs Martin, said logging companies had felled trees too close to river courses in the past, and there was "some suggestion" logs had been stockpiled on skid sites.

BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF Slopes sometimes looked as if they had been "annihilated", with whole hillsides cut down and "quite a bit of slash" left on the ground. The slash accumulated sediment when it was carried downhill by rain, Martin said. "We've seen areas and rivers that have been totally silted up, they've been destroyed with sand, people's efforts of planting trees for years and years that have been buried under a metre of silt, wetlands that have disappeared and ... ultimately our sea, our bays, are receiving the sediments."

The national environmental standard for plantation forestry, coming into effect in May, would improve some practices, she said. "But there are some areas where we think the national standards probably don't go far enough." Martin called on the council to monitor and enforce compliance, and reconsider if hillsides should be zoned for forestry use, with regards to climate change.

However, the council is warning stopping timber operations in the hills around slip-affected communities near Abel Tasman National Park won't guarantee an end to the kind of damage caused by ex-cyclone Gita. Tasman's deputy mayor Tim King said the region was "not a benign environment" and warned that "whatever we put in place and whatever national regulation there is, is not going to make that go away."

He said it was important to point out the scale of ex-cyclone Gita, the volume of rainfall, and the nature of the "Separation Point Granites"; a strip of granitic bedrock that stretched 100 kilometres south from the Abel Tasman National Park.

"For as long as people have lived in Nelson, this land has eroded, collapsed, under whatever land use that happened to have been in at the time," he said, referring to floods in 1877, when 300 acres of native bush near Ngatimoti "fell into the Motueka Valley". Slips and debris flows on February 20 had not only occurred on pine forest sites and recently logged land, but in areas of native bush, regenerating land use, and pasture. People had to be conscious of that when they moved in to the area and built houses, he said.

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Source & Photo: Stuff

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