Gisborne’s mayor has not ruled out the potential for a forest slash bioenergy plant in Tairāwhiti, but cautions it would be only one part of dealing with the region’s forest slash problem.
The government’s response to the ministerial inquiry into the east coast land use report includes a woody biomass research fund, costing $10.4 million over three years, to investigate investing in biomass forestry.
This includes support for development of a bioenergy plant in Tairāwhiti that uses forest slash as a material source that could be turned into pelletised wood fuel products. Trial work at Huntly power station has proven the fuel source is a valid one for replacing coal in high energy industrial boilers.
“Over the last five to six years I have been part of several discussions with parties keen to investigate this. It would be part of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the issue,” Gisborne District Council (GDC) mayor Rehette Stoltz said.
She said the GDC has long battled with national policy standards on forestry management, with the one-size-fits-all regulations failing to acknowledge Gisborne’s distinct topography and soil types.
In its response to the inquiry report, the government has said it will help council by providing a resource management adviser to help develop new management measures that are fit for purpose.
Stoltz said the GDC had acted on its slash problem even before Cyclone Gabrielle by appointing a taskforce in January, after Cyclone Hale.
It has also been the most active council in the country for prosecuting forestry companies failing to comply with resource consent conditions.
“Maybe before 2018 we were not as active, but we certainly are now,” Stoltz said.
“We are such a unique region and standard rules do not work for us and we have objected every time the national policy rules have been raised.”
She said the GDC is poised to receive news in the coming week about what the region’s settlement package will be to deal with dwellings that fall into Category 3 (no longer inhabitable) and Category 2 (requiring significant repair).
She said the vast majority are in Gisborne city, but there are also properties scattered throughout the region in those categories.
The region has about 50 homes in Gisborne and beyond expected to be Category 3, and hundreds in Category 2.
The region will also share in the $275m announced for Waka Kotahi and local council roading repairs, with its allocation still to be confirmed.
Stoltz said it is through no failure of the region, or its people, that they incurred the damage they did, with climate change exacerbating the storms’ effects.
“For that reason we really need to have a central government-funded approach to dealing with it.”
Other funding also in play includes $10.5m allocated to help clean up at least 70,000t of wood debris from high priority river catchments in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, and $200m of support for sediment clean-up that includes $100m to help councils collect and dispose of the material.