Questions asked over huge swath of forestry slash

WALL OF WOOD: Wigan Bridge moved 30 centimetres from the weight of wood that piled up against it during the Queen’s Birthday Weekend flood last year. Picture supplied
WOODY DEBRIS: A large volume of forestry slash and logs washed down rivers in the storm over the weekend. The rainfall over the weekend around Tolaga Bay reached levels higher than Cyclone Bola. Picture supplied

The volume of forestry slash and logs washed down rivers over the weekend has been called “unacceptable” by the East Coast community.

Hikurangi Forest Farms Ltd general manager Ian Brown said how that amount of wood came to be washed out was a question they were asking themselves.

“It is difficult to know how that volume came down in one shot. We’re not really sure. At this stage, we can’t even hazard a guess.”

At least three companies are harvesting in the Uawa catchment area affected by the weekend’s rain — Hikurangi Forest Farms, PF Olsen and Ernslaw One.

A total of 61 bridges and culverts in the catchment area have been affected and will need to be inspected by engineers.

Tairawhiti Roads says the most significant issue is the Wigan Bridge on Tauwhareparae Road, which has moved at least 30cm and is now twisted because of the weight of woody debris. Tauwhareparae Road beyond Paroa Road is closed for at least two weeks.

Where has the debris come from?

Mr Brown said he was in a helicopter to look at the situation yesterday but the cloud was too low to get a good look. Tomorrow he will look right up in the catchment area to assess where the debris is coming from and how deep the damage is.

“I can only think there has been some collapse in the hills but I can’t even say that, as we have not had a proper look yet.”

Mr Brown said the wood could also have been left behind from many years ago.

“Some of the wood looks quite old and it took an event of this size to bring it down.”

The rainfall over the weekend around Tolaga Bay reached levels higher than Cyclone Bola.

Mr Brown said they were co-ordinating their clean-up with Gisborne District Council.

“We are going to assist in every way we can. We have a fair amount of resources and a lot of machinery we can bring in to remove the slash build-up, but that is going to take a bit of time as right now we cannot get the machinery in there.”

Mr Brown said Hikurangi had very strict conditions on their resource consents, especially around water courses.

“As an organisation, we utilise our optimisation plant to prevent this stuff from happening. We take wood to the plant and don’t leave offcuts. But that plant has only been operational for a year and some of that wood could have been from before that.”

Ernslaw One regional manager Iain McInnes said companies with forests there were looking at the wood debris and where it came from.

“We just don’t know enough about it yet.”

PF Olsen manager Chris Berry carried out inspections this morning on the East Coast.

“Until we get a clearer picture and I have had the opportunity to look into it there is not much we can tell you.”

East Coast residents expressed their horror over social media at the amount of woody debris from the harvesting of pine. Gisborne resident Linda Coulston summed up the thoughts of many when she said it was “unacceptable”.

“I have talked with folk who were witness to the river of slash being pushed up against the bridge in Uawa. Are there not consents and requirements for the land and forest owners to clean up the crap before it gets washed down the river, killing stock and pushing wool sheds off their foundations?”

GDC director of environmental services and protection Nick Zaman said the heavy rain and release of debris had caused significant disruption to the community, land and infrastructure.

“Our first priority has been ensuring people are safe, as well as clearing roads and other key infrastructure.

“We will investigate why forestry debris has ended up in our waterways in such large quantities — it could be a result of landslides or due to forestry practice.

“It is the responsibility of forestry owners to ensure that slash does not find its way into our waterways. Appropriate management is critical and this is why the proposed freshwater plan includes tougher rules for forestry than the national standard set by central government.”

The volume of forestry slash and logs washed down rivers over the weekend has been called “unacceptable” by the East Coast community.

Hikurangi Forest Farms Ltd general manager Ian Brown said how that amount of wood came to be washed out was a question they were asking themselves.

“It is difficult to know how that volume came down in one shot. We’re not really sure. At this stage, we can’t even hazard a guess.”

At least three companies are harvesting in the Uawa catchment area affected by the weekend’s rain — Hikurangi Forest Farms, PF Olsen and Ernslaw One.

A total of 61 bridges and culverts in the catchment area have been affected and will need to be inspected by engineers.

Tairawhiti Roads says the most significant issue is the Wigan Bridge on Tauwhareparae Road, which has moved at least 30cm and is now twisted because of the weight of woody debris. Tauwhareparae Road beyond Paroa Road is closed for at least two weeks.

Where has the debris come from?

Mr Brown said he was in a helicopter to look at the situation yesterday but the cloud was too low to get a good look. Tomorrow he will look right up in the catchment area to assess where the debris is coming from and how deep the damage is.

“I can only think there has been some collapse in the hills but I can’t even say that, as we have not had a proper look yet.”

Mr Brown said the wood could also have been left behind from many years ago.

“Some of the wood looks quite old and it took an event of this size to bring it down.”

The rainfall over the weekend around Tolaga Bay reached levels higher than Cyclone Bola.

Mr Brown said they were co-ordinating their clean-up with Gisborne District Council.

“We are going to assist in every way we can. We have a fair amount of resources and a lot of machinery we can bring in to remove the slash build-up, but that is going to take a bit of time as right now we cannot get the machinery in there.”

Mr Brown said Hikurangi had very strict conditions on their resource consents, especially around water courses.

“As an organisation, we utilise our optimisation plant to prevent this stuff from happening. We take wood to the plant and don’t leave offcuts. But that plant has only been operational for a year and some of that wood could have been from before that.”

Ernslaw One regional manager Iain McInnes said companies with forests there were looking at the wood debris and where it came from.

“We just don’t know enough about it yet.”

PF Olsen manager Chris Berry carried out inspections this morning on the East Coast.

“Until we get a clearer picture and I have had the opportunity to look into it there is not much we can tell you.”

East Coast residents expressed their horror over social media at the amount of woody debris from the harvesting of pine. Gisborne resident Linda Coulston summed up the thoughts of many when she said it was “unacceptable”.

“I have talked with folk who were witness to the river of slash being pushed up against the bridge in Uawa. Are there not consents and requirements for the land and forest owners to clean up the crap before it gets washed down the river, killing stock and pushing wool sheds off their foundations?”

GDC director of environmental services and protection Nick Zaman said the heavy rain and release of debris had caused significant disruption to the community, land and infrastructure.

“Our first priority has been ensuring people are safe, as well as clearing roads and other key infrastructure.

“We will investigate why forestry debris has ended up in our waterways in such large quantities — it could be a result of landslides or due to forestry practice.

“It is the responsibility of forestry owners to ensure that slash does not find its way into our waterways. Appropriate management is critical and this is why the proposed freshwater plan includes tougher rules for forestry than the national standard set by central government.”

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Harry Walker - 1 year ago
Just wait for the "all care, no responsibility, it's not us" excuses to be trotted out regarding ownership of the slash. How much of the profits from these forests stay in the Gisborne/East Coast district and who gets it?

Huhana Rokx-Potae - 1 year ago
Is it really tougher rules required or is it better monitoring by GDC to ensure that the existing rules and environmental resource consents are adhered to in the first place? This is not the first time slash has made its way down to waterways, it has been happening for years. Perhaps not to the same degree as last weekend, but crying wolf now is not helpful. No, stop sitting on your hands GDC and start managing the forestry consents and operations procedures like you should be.

Christine Small, Tasman - 1 year ago
This happened in Tasman District with Cyclone Gita which caused houses to be crushed by the slash washed downhill. Poor forestry practices are nationwide. The forestry industry needs tougher regulation and councils have been hopeless at monitoring it. Central Government needs to work to fix this.

Kent Atkinson - 1 year ago
But according to Scion, a bit of forest slash is good for waterways. Retaining large, stable pieces of wood that do not impede flow provides benefits to invertebrates and fish, similar to native forest streams. https://www.scionresearch.com/about-us/about-scion/corporate-publications/scion-connections/past-issues-list/issue-3/managing-forests-for-healthy-streams

Kent Atkinson - 1 year ago
The main problem identified by forestry companies in managing logging slash in streams was the lack of information on the effects of varying levels of slash on the stream environment.
https://fgr.nz/documents/download/4077

Rachel - 1 year ago
Increased regulations would only hurt the already struggling industry and regional provinces that rely heavily on forestry. Slash is both expensive and detrimental to the environment to dispose off. A better solution would be for someone to make a profit from the slash.
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/406263/turning-slash-into-cash/