Freshwater plan section 'unfair': forestry reps

'Inconsistencies' in council policy.

'Inconsistencies' in council policy.

FORESTRY representatives want a section on “protected watercourses” deleted from the proposed regional freshwater plan.

They believe the measures go beyond addressing the severe erosion they were intended to remedy.

Representatives of Ernslaw One and Eastland Wood Council made lengthy submissions yesterday during the final of four hearings on the proposed regional freshwater plan.

This hearing covers a range of topics, including the Waipaoa Catchment Plan, activities in the beds of lakes and rivers, riparian margins and wetlands, and contaminated sites.

A schedule in the plan in question would require forestry to maintain and enhance riparian margins along “protected watercourses”, a schedule forestry representatives believed to be “unfair” and which would place unnecessary burden on their harvesting efforts.

Eastland Wood Council’s Trish Fordyce said protected watercourses had been identified through resource consents for forest harvesting as those with “bed incision and at-risk of erosion”. They took measures to mitigate that erosion.

The proposed freshwater plan promoted indigenous vegetation areas along these “protected watercourses”.

“There is (an) inference that such protected watercourses may have other values, which are to be considered when hauling across such watercourses,” said Ms Fordyce.

“Yet these watercourses are clearly set up in the forestry resource consents for erosion risk issues. Identifying watercourses for erosion risks rests with the resource consent process for harvesting.”

Ernslaw One environmental manager Peter Weir said “protected watercourse is a misnomer”.

Rather, he labelled some of them “incised, erodible and characterised by high sediment load. Riparian margins have little or no indigenous biodiversity values”.

They already took measures to prevent erosion, including replanting setbacks of between five and 10 metres, depending on the stream size and flow, where they allowed indigenous vegetation to regrow.

In the future, the “highly erodible” areas would not be replanted and replanting of other areas would need to go through the consenting process.

Mr Weir also took aim at inconsistencies in Gisborne District Council policy, including the “common prescription” for planting eroding riparian areas in invasive exotic species, willow and poplar, which was inconsistent with objectives for indigenous biodiversity.

Mr Weir cited the highly-erodible nature of the land, the previous clearance of thousands of hectares of native vegetation for farming, and the Tarndale and Mangatu slips, which had all contributed to the “huge” amount of sediment the region’s rivers carry.

A 2011 report estimates 7200 tonnes of sediment per square kilometre a year travels down the Waipaoa River (the next highest area in the North Island is Bay of Plenty at 13.6 tonnes per sq km a year).

In comparison, forestry harvests “don’t have much of an impact on erosion”.

Crown Forestry national asset manager Michael Candy said identifying erosion status was not a suitable criterion for protecting watercourses.

“The policy makes it clear the reason for protected watercourses is to retire areas and establish indigenous riparian margins. This was not why these were established in the resource consents.

“The plan is treating water bodies in forestry differently to water bodies in other productive rural land use areas.”

Other submissions yesterday focused on protecting mauri (life-supporting capacity of waterways), “band” limits for water quality, farm environment plans and requirements for farmers to build stock crossings.

These topics will be further explored in the hearing, which continues today, and addressed in stories in the coming days.

FORESTRY representatives want a section on “protected watercourses” deleted from the proposed regional freshwater plan.

They believe the measures go beyond addressing the severe erosion they were intended to remedy.

Representatives of Ernslaw One and Eastland Wood Council made lengthy submissions yesterday during the final of four hearings on the proposed regional freshwater plan.

This hearing covers a range of topics, including the Waipaoa Catchment Plan, activities in the beds of lakes and rivers, riparian margins and wetlands, and contaminated sites.

A schedule in the plan in question would require forestry to maintain and enhance riparian margins along “protected watercourses”, a schedule forestry representatives believed to be “unfair” and which would place unnecessary burden on their harvesting efforts.

Eastland Wood Council’s Trish Fordyce said protected watercourses had been identified through resource consents for forest harvesting as those with “bed incision and at-risk of erosion”. They took measures to mitigate that erosion.

The proposed freshwater plan promoted indigenous vegetation areas along these “protected watercourses”.

“There is (an) inference that such protected watercourses may have other values, which are to be considered when hauling across such watercourses,” said Ms Fordyce.

“Yet these watercourses are clearly set up in the forestry resource consents for erosion risk issues. Identifying watercourses for erosion risks rests with the resource consent process for harvesting.”

Ernslaw One environmental manager Peter Weir said “protected watercourse is a misnomer”.

Rather, he labelled some of them “incised, erodible and characterised by high sediment load. Riparian margins have little or no indigenous biodiversity values”.

They already took measures to prevent erosion, including replanting setbacks of between five and 10 metres, depending on the stream size and flow, where they allowed indigenous vegetation to regrow.

In the future, the “highly erodible” areas would not be replanted and replanting of other areas would need to go through the consenting process.

Mr Weir also took aim at inconsistencies in Gisborne District Council policy, including the “common prescription” for planting eroding riparian areas in invasive exotic species, willow and poplar, which was inconsistent with objectives for indigenous biodiversity.

Mr Weir cited the highly-erodible nature of the land, the previous clearance of thousands of hectares of native vegetation for farming, and the Tarndale and Mangatu slips, which had all contributed to the “huge” amount of sediment the region’s rivers carry.

A 2011 report estimates 7200 tonnes of sediment per square kilometre a year travels down the Waipaoa River (the next highest area in the North Island is Bay of Plenty at 13.6 tonnes per sq km a year).

In comparison, forestry harvests “don’t have much of an impact on erosion”.

Crown Forestry national asset manager Michael Candy said identifying erosion status was not a suitable criterion for protecting watercourses.

“The policy makes it clear the reason for protected watercourses is to retire areas and establish indigenous riparian margins. This was not why these were established in the resource consents.

“The plan is treating water bodies in forestry differently to water bodies in other productive rural land use areas.”

Other submissions yesterday focused on protecting mauri (life-supporting capacity of waterways), “band” limits for water quality, farm environment plans and requirements for farmers to build stock crossings.

These topics will be further explored in the hearing, which continues today, and addressed in stories in the coming days.

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