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Ministerial inquiry into log slash a welcome relief

Thursday 23 February, 2023

News today the Government will undertake a Ministerial inquiry into forestry practices has been met with relief from Gisborne District Council.

The two-month inquiry will cover Tairāwhiti and Wairoa.

It’ll be led by a panel that includes former government minister and Gisborne resident Hon Hekia Parata, former regional council chief executive Bill Bayfield, and forestry engineer Matthew McCloy.

It will investigate past and current land-use practices and the impact of woody debris including forestry slash and sediment on communities, livestock, buildings and the environment. It will also look at associated economic drivers and constraints.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann says an independent inquiry led by the Government is the only way our region can get definitive answers that our community can trust.

“It had to be independent, and we thank the Government for listening.

“The knowledge and information gained through this inquiry will form the foundation for our region to move forward with sustainable practices on our whenua.”

A petition started by Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti calling for an independent inquiry has received 10,765 signatures since it was started in January after ex-tropical Cyclone Hale brought tonnes of slash down rivers, broke bridges, ruined crops, and property and killed stock.

A month later on January 13, Cyclone Gabrielle struck with record-breaking rain and more unprecedented devastation for our region.

“As a Council we have prosecuted five forestry companies successfully since 2018.

“However, our focus is on preventing these issues from occurring in the first place during forestry harvesting.”

People in those communities who have been affected, and the wider public, will be invited to provide feedback to the panel as part of the inquiry.

“Council agrees that a new approach to sustainable land use, including forestry, is needed for Tairāwhiti and a lot of work is already underway as part of the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan (TRMP) review.”

Ms Thatcher Swann says there is also potential to establish greater controls on land use on steep, erosion-prone land.

“This might entail restricting certain land uses (such as plantation forestry) on high-risk land or restricting how much of an area or catchment can be harvested within a set time period. We could also potentially require bonds or financial contributions for higher-risk land use activities. The details of all this would need to be worked through with Council and stakeholders.”

Ms Thatcher Swann says new approaches to land-use could also be explored through the development of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which will be required by the new Spatial Planning Bill currently being considered by Select Committee.

The Government panel will make recommendations to improve land use including changes needed to practices and regulation at central and local government levels.

This can include consideration of forestry practices, Resource Management Act plans and National Direction. For example, the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry and the Tairāwhiti and Wairoa District Resource Management Plans.

The full Government release can be read here.

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