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May, 2023

Ministerial inquiry could have widespread implications for Tairawhiti community

The New Zealand Institute of Forestry says the just announced Tairawhiti land use inquiry is recommending measures which will stop the very activities which are vital for the region’s recovery.

NZIF president James Treadwell says the Ministerial Inquiry’s report fails to both examine the region’s economic options, nor suggests solutions to mitigate against the effects of climate change.

He says the focus is just on dealing just with forest waste, rather than wider land use issues.

“The call for an immediate halt to clear felling in the Tairāwhiti region is not viable, nor is the recommendation of a 40-hectare harvest coupe limit and green up requirements.”

“This would increase wind throw around clearfell boundaries and likely need more roads to be built.”

“The result would be a massive economic loss for forest owners who will have to delay harvesting their blocks and could see increased tree loss from wind throw.”

“The Tairāwhiti community will bear the brunt of the effects from that loss. Without the economic activity generated from forestry, jobs will be lost and reinvesting in infrastructure to mitigate against future storms will be incredibly challenging.”

James Treadwell says the report also places the onus unduly on overseas forest owners, claiming that these companies have contributed to poor land use and the presence of woody debris.

“Many of New Zealand’s forests are investment partnerships – predominantly New Zealand shareholders and partners, not to say wholly New Zealand owed companies and farm woodlots.”

“All forestry companies harbour important community benefits, generating economic activity.”

“They provide one in four people in the Tairāwhiti region with employment. These companies – whether New Zealand or foreign-owned – must also meet stringent criteria in order to operate.”

“Both Huiarua and Matanui Stations mentioned in the report have been planted in a mix of native trees and pines as part of the owner’s corporate responsibility and to ensure integrated land use. Forestry activities in the Waiapu Valley have also seen the number of pupils at the local school triple.”

James Treadwell says painting these companies and the wider industry as the problem detracts from the larger issue at hand.

“The report broaches the complexity of Tairawhiti’s landscape and details the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, but offers no real or specific solutions to land use problems or mitigating the effects of climate change.”

Forestry slash accounted for only four percent of the woody debris deposited in Hawke’s Bay – a figure omitted from the report. The remainder of that debris came from riparian plantings of willows, poplars and native trees.

“Regardless, the forestry sector accepts its clean-up responsibilities, and many companies are already playing their part in Tairāwhiti’s recovery,” James Treadwell says.

“Establishment of a Woody Debris Task Force is a good idea, however, given that forestry slash accounted for such a small proportion of the woody debris, the cost of the clean-up and composition of the taskforce should be inclusive of a wider group of parties – pastoral farming, for example, whose contribution to sedimentation is glossed over in the report.”

James Treadwell says NZIF will be engaging with the Government closely on its recommendations and providing robust feedback on the inquiry’s recommendations to ensure more positive outcomes for its members and the Tairāwhiti community.

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