Forestry road permit declined in Environment Plan

Friday 13 Mar 2020

Plans to police forestry trucks on highways in Marlborough are "not appropriate", say the commissioners who declined the proposal. The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) made a submission in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan suggesting commercial forestry trucks need a resource consent to drive on or cross state highways.

NZTA hoped the new rule would allow it to better judge the potential damage that forestry trucks might cause, then manage effects. "The carting of loads on unsealed roads after rain can cause significant damage to these roads. A permitted activity standard has been suggested to address this," the agency said in its submission.

But the plan's panel of commissioners said it was "not appropriate to single out the weights and effects of trucks servicing a single industry". "The forest industry stressed to the panel that quarry trucks, dairy tankers, stock trucks, grape trucks at vintage, fertiliser trucks and numerous other heavy vehicles ... all use the roading network," the panel said in its decision document.

The panel instead decided to add a few lines to the plan, highlighting the powers it could use under the Land Transport Act to manage the potential damage caused by heavy loads, "including harvested logs and quarried rock" on both state highways and local roads.

Heagney Bros owner and operator Peter Heagney, whose company owned forestry trucks, said NZTA's request seemed a "bit bizarre". “It [a resource consent] would slow everything down," he said. "They don't come very quickly, no matter what you try to do." The new rule could have forced the company to have declined or postponed job requests that were short notice, had it been approved.

"Then there would of course have been a charge. I don't know what the cost of a consent application would be, but there's even additional costs for our own time doing it. It's not a five-minute job." He said the company currently paid road user charges on all carriers it owned, including logging trucks, but chose not to pick up forestry jobs that involved a road levy. Marlborough Roads said last week forestry companies in Port Underwood had paid road levies in the past.

Heagney said he thought forestry trucks were "targeted" by the public. "If you're a forestry farmer, you grow your trees for 30 years, and you don't use that road. But then after 30 years you might have a lot of movements in a 12-month period. From the people's perspective, that's a lot going on in short period of time," he said. "But when you look at a farmer or a grape grower's use over 30 years, you'll find they cart a similar amount of tonnage over the same period."

New Zealand Farm Forestry Association Marlborough brand secretary Graham Cooper did not understand the reason for NZTA's request. "NZTA know they can tap into each logging company's computer base to see where they [forestry trucks] were at what time ... It points out places that could be monitored anyway, without a resource consent. It doesn't make sense. Would it be the whole company that would have to get a consent, or does it have to specify which truck each time?"

NZTA top of the south system manager Andrew James said last week the agency was looking over the decisions made on the environment plan, and had not yet formed an opinion on them. "Commercial forestry causes significant damage to roads and can contribute to safety issues due to the location of their access. The rule framework did not enable control over [their] access," James said.

The plan brought three major management plans into a single document and defined what activities were appropriate in Marlborough's urban, rural and coastal environments. The tracked changes version of the PMEP went on the council website on Tuesday, showing all additions and deletions to the notified provisions of the PMEP as a result of the hearing panel's decisions. Appeals had to be lodged by April 16.

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