Topics: Environment, Flooding, Politics

Forestry companies responsible for post-flood slash – Environment Minister

By Talisa Kupenga
  • North Island: East Coast

East Coast locals are calling for stricter rules to prevent soil erosion and protect waterways from forestry slash in the wake of severe flooding at Tolaga Bay.

They also want half of trees planted under the government's Billion Trees Project to be natives but the government says that is unlikely. 

A near 2000 signature petition is calling for a government re-think on the Billion Trees Project.

East Coast resident Manu Caddie says, "The Billion Trees Project at this stage seems to only be looking at around 13 percent of the trees being native, that means that the vast majority will be exotics likely to be harvested on a 20-30 year cycle and each time they are harvested we get these erosion and slash issues."

Environment Minister David Parker says, "There is a real problem on the East Coast with slash getting into waterways.  It's not just the Tolaga Bay area, I've seen it myself around the Mahia Peninsula where the river comes down there and there is some terrible forestry practice."

Parker says it's unlikely 50 percent of trees planted will be natives but Forestry Minister Shane Jones says time will tell.

"At the end of the day, time will make that percentage more clear.  Ultimately it is up to the land owners and whether or not the regional council wants to work together with government."  

Head of Te Uru Rākau Julie Collins told Te Kāea there is no set target for native plantings.

"We would estimate at this stage that around half of new plantings through the One Billion Trees Programme would be native trees but...the focus is on the right trees in the right places, not a specific number of specific tree types."

Caddie says, "What we'd need to see first is some real investment in commercialising natives.  To incentivise it for landowners there need to be some financial returns.”

Parker says forestry companies should be held responsible after millions of tonnes of slash (pine debris) have blocked waterways, compromised infrastructure and washed ashore at Tolaga Bay in the wake of this week's floods.

Jones says, "That is something for us to look into whether or not there has been bad practice or breaches from companies there on the East Coast."

Caddie says, "This is one of the times where life was potentially at risk because of the practices on the land and what happened with the slash.  That's going to be exacerbated as the climate changes and the forestry industry ramps up and that's a worry for East Coast residents."

Caddie says standards for forestry planting need to be stronger.  Parker says a review of the former government's standards, released last month, is expected next year.