Cyclone response efforts following land use report

Friday 4 Aug 2023

A suite of sector-led measures the forestry industry has implemented since the Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use are being highlighted, as the industry continues pushing for change. Letters to Government Minister and agencies ( East Coast Letter & Hawkes Bay Letter), released on Wednesday, detail the recommendations already being implemented in Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay by respective industry groups, Eastland Wood Council - Te Kaunihera Pororakauo Te Tairāwhiti (EWC) and Hawke’s Bay Forestry Group (HBFG).

CEO of the Eastland Wood Council, Philip Hope says: “Some of the recommendations in the Ministerial Land Use Inquiry released in May talked about limiting clearcut size. Our members have taken this on-board voluntarily as part of efforts to reduce future risks,” Mr Hope says.

“In Tairāwhiti, we have also voluntarily implemented intensive wood removal plans for high at-risk slopes where appropriate. We are working on an equitable wood debris programme to guide future remedial work with our partners, Gisborne District Council. There is no silver bullet, but there are a lot of initiatives underway that complement each other.”

HBFG Acting CEO, James Powrie, adds: “Catchment specific harvest planning is also being practised in some of our forests,” Mr Powrie adds. “The Pakuratahi Land Use Study is being repeated in Hawke’s Bay with involvement from a range of stakeholders, including industry and iwi. It is a unique opportunity for forward looking research and education into improved land use across farming, forestry, and native forest restoration activities.”

Both letters acknowledge ongoing clean-up efforts including hundreds of hours tidying up beaches, the adoption of woody debris protocols and the continuation of the use of science and technology to manage slopes. “The impacts and scale of these cyclical weather patterns are astounding when they occur. While Wairoa was not as badly impacted by woody debris, saturation from six months of record rain and then this major event has taken a huge toll in Hawke’s Bay,” Mr Powrie says.

“It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for Aotearoa. The challenges in Tairāwhiti and the challenges in Hawke’s Bay are not identical, which means the ongoing responses in each area vary too. I am proud of the way our people have stepped up to help in the face of devastating weather events, but we are not done yet,” Mr Hope adds.

Looking to the future, Philip Hope acknowledges there are further initiatives on the table. “Ultimately, where the risks of slope failure cannot be mitigated due to the highly erodible soils, there may be cases for retirement of land from productive use and not building on high-risk flood plains. That is something that we will consider as well. We need to continue to collaborate at a sector level with GDC, iwi and mana whenua to tackle the most pressing issues and find the right way forward,” Mr Hope says.

James Powrie also notes the critical role that mature relationships with local and central governments will play in fostering enduring change. “In Hawke’s Bay, we have a pulp mill to process poorer quality logs in the region, and a wood fired power facility. This plant processes forest residues, removing them from the forests. Gisborne doesn’t have these initiatives in place as it currently stands,” Mr Powrie says.

“As an industry, we need central government to help us create an environment for investments like this. We also need a nuanced approach to land use, and site-specific treatment of the risks and impacts from debris and sediment,” Mr Powrie adds.

Both Mr Hope and Mr Powrie acknowledge there is also work to do to restore the social licence which was impacted in the wake of the cyclones. “Forestry remains an important part of the economic and social fabric of who we are as a country. As an industry, we are committed to working hard to regain the trust and confidence of our community,” Mr Hope says.

About The Eastland Wood Council– Te Kaunihera Pororākau o Te Tairāwhiti

The Eastland Wood Council (EWC) is an incorporated society which provides a collective voice for the forestry industry in Tairāwhiti, for the benefit of Tairāwhiti.  Members reflect the supply-chain and include forestry companies, forestry managers, contractors, trucking organisations, Eastland Port, ISO (stevedoring), timber mills and export. Tairāwhiti has 163,156 hectares of planted forestry and EWC members represent more than 130,000 hectares of production forestry. Planted forestry makes up just 20% of total area in Tairāwhiti.

About the Hawke’s Bay Forestry Group

Hawkes Bay is growing 165,000 hectares of highly productive plantation forests of which 127,180 hectares are managed by members of the Hawkes Bay Forestry Group.

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