Gisborne District Council has given a reserved thumbs-up to the government’s response to the ministerial inquiry on forest and land use management in Tairāwhiti.
The government is supporting a number of the recommendations made by the inquiry. They include the clearing of woody debris, support for the council’s future land use management policies, and improved guidance nationally on forestry management, including slash and waste.
Minister for the Environment David Parker has said that the government’s response includes a period of immediate action and then resilience building for future planning.
Gisborne District Council (GDC) mayor Rehette Stoltz said the council firmly supports several recommendations in the report, including strengthening land use rules to manage activities in areas with extreme erosion, conducting flood capacity assessments, and calling for a halt to clear-fell harvesting.
A long-time issue for the GDC has been the application of a one-size-fits-all environmental standard to plantation forestry.
The council has long maintained there is a need for greater acknowledgment of regional differences in forestry plantations, with more council direction allowed for.
The minister pointed out that the government will be helping councils by providing a statutory resource management adviser to more quickly develop resource management measures that are fit for purpose.
Stoltz said GDC has already taken significant steps to protect the environment by increasing monitoring and enforcement efforts and successfully prosecuting forestry companies.
Tairāwhiti forest companies have welcomed the government’s response.
Eastland Wood Council CEO Philip Hope said members have already adopted some of the recommendations, including reducing clear-felling areas and closer planning on high- or at-risk slopes.
“Our members have taken measures on board voluntarily as part of efforts to reduce future risks,” he said.
But he said mitigating the risks that Tairāwhiti’s unique soils and landscape bring would require co-ordinated effort across all groups.
In all, 41 of the 49 recommendations made by the land use inquiry are to be progressed.
Recovery work already underway that is captured in government actions includes $10.15 million set aside for cleaning up and removing forestry waste.
At this point about $3m has been committed.
A further $10.4m has been allocated to woody biomass research over the next three years to build a case for investment in woody residue and slash recovery for biofuel production.
This includes support for developing a bio-energy plant in Tairāwhiti.
There has also been $200m committed to deal with silt clean-up through Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti.