Federated Farmers is urging the government to hold an inquiry into the factors that contributed to flooding and infrastructure damage on the East Coast from ex-tropical Cyclone Hale.
The Feds says residual woody material, or slash, left after exotic forestry harvesting was a significant contributing factor to increased damage and will need to be part of any inquiry.
The call from the Feds follows similar demands from the Environmental Defence Society (EDS), which wants a commission of inquiry into forestry industry practices. Environmental forestry company Ekos also said there is a need to move away from clear-cut forestry to continuous-cover forestry methods.
Feds national board member and former Gisborne-Wairoa president Toby Williams said no one can do anything about heavy rain, but moves need to be made to prevent a repeat of the damage.
In the wake of Cyclone Bola in 1988, tens of thousands of hectares of trees were planted on highly erodible land in the province with the idea of stabilising slopes.
“Now those trees are being harvested, re-exposing those slopes. The storms haven’t changed – in fact they’re more frequent. And they are exposing current harvesting practices and the detrimental effects they are having on downstream catchments and communities,” Williams said.
“Under current government settings, mass planting of exotics is being encouraged, especially in our region.
“If, as we are being led to believe, they are all going to be harvested, then there needs to be an urgent rethink on how and where we harvest to ensure we will not repeat the issues when the next cycle of logging looms.”
Williams said forestry operators have “definitely” lifted their game and are aware of the problem.
“But if it is skid [temporary trails in logging areas] failure and things like that then we have to ask questions about those practices that were supposed to have changed after the devastation of the 2018 storm.
“We need to get some inspectors up in the air and observe where all the debris has come from, and then what our pathway is going to be going forward,” Williams said.
A letter the Feds sent to the ministers or associate ministers of emergency management, forestry and the environment recommends holding meetings with Tairāwhiti landowners and residents, and with Gisborne District Council.
“Gaining the community’s view on where they see themselves in the future will be key to improving the long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability of the region,” the letter says.