Gisborne District mayor Rehette Stoltz believes Te Tairāwhiti community and council need to stand up to Wellington-based land use initiatives, creating their own solutions in a region with unique forestry challenges.
“The cavalry are not coming here to Te Tairāwhiti. We have to look after ourselves, and find solutions that will work here, offering some pushback against Wellington initiatives like the National Environmental Standards [NES] on plantation forestry,” she said.
The council accepted a 10,000-signature petition calling for a review of forestry land use in Te Tairāwhiti, but Stoltz said it needs to take a broad land-based approach in evaluating the region’s response.
The NES on plantation forestry is a major point needing review and attempts to have a “one rule fits all” approach that ignores a region quite distinct from others in New Zealand, she said.
Over a number of years the council has tried to ensure Tairāwhiti’s special situation be considered, to allow special rules on forest management.
While some of its own rules have been included, those presenting the petition to the council in January maintain that not enough has been done. There is hope that a review of the NES will enable the region’s needs to be better included.
Meantime Stoltz rejects claims made by some locals that the council has failed in effectively policing the consent conditions for forestry it has issued.
“Complying with consent conditions is the responsibility of the consent holder,” she said. “We need to be clear the obligations sit with them.”
She said since the Queen’s Birthday 2018 storm event at Tolaga Bay, the Gisborne District Council (GDC) has increased its monitoring of the 233 forestry consents in the region.
“And from that 2018 event we also ended up with prosecutions.”
The council is also getting wood debris on Gisborne City beaches analysed to determine if it is possible to trace sources for prosecutions after this latest event. Nine additional monitoring roles have also been added to the council’s staffing arsenal.
The mayor said community and council have been assured by Eastland Wood Council that the industry is taking the issue seriously, and commended companies for stepping up after the last event.
“We cannot just kick them. We are talking about generational changes here in forestry. Some will be short-term improvements, and GDC is writing a paper on forestry slash, who deals with it, who pays for it.”
She said the council cannot keep simply chipping slash on beaches to distribute as free mulch.
She acknowledged that, despite some short-term measures that can include leaving some trees in place, it will be a long time before the full results of land use shifts are seen.
“So, we will have to have a discussion on who will pay for future clean-ups because the weather will not be changing.
“Hopefully we will see less and less impact as forestry standards change, and legislation changes, and there is less felling of historic forests.”
Pat Seymour, a former longtime GDC councillor and farm forester, said regulation has to also allow for individuals’ property rights, particularly as more farmers seek retirement exit options, and often forestry is their only option.