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Ūawa Catchment Plan

The Ūawa combined catchment area has a land area of 668km2 and is located north of Gisborne. Key rivers in this catchment include the Ūawa, Hikuwai, Mangahauini and Mangaheia. Hikuwai is known for high flows in flood situations where the water level can quickly rise by more than 10m. River flow, rainfall and a range of water quality parameters are measured at Willow Flat and Hikuwai Bridge sites on the Hikuwai river.

The townships in this area are Tolaga Bay, Anaura Bay, and Tokomaru Bay. Flat land near Tolaga Bay has been developed for a range of crop types. Irrigation is piped hundreds of metres to avoid the salt water in the Ūawa. Other land uses include extensive sheep and cattle farming, and significant areas have been changed into exotic forestry since the 1980s.

Near the turn of the 20th century, widespread deforestation resulted in substantial erosion and gully slipping that peaked in the 1970s prior to major reforestation programmes. The catchment was further affected by the devastation caused by Cyclone Bola, leading to most of the worst eroding land planted in exotic forestry. Since harvest began, land sliding and debris flow have been frequent and worsened by more severe weather events.

Uawa Catchment

Issue facing the catchment - Sedimentation

Our region carries an erosion risk on a scale and severity greater than any other part of New Zealand. A lot of unstable land has been used for soil conservation. Since 2010, harvesting on this land has accelerated, and the region has also been hit with greater and more frequent severe weather events.

As first rotation harvests on steep lands have proceeded, sediment and woody debris have been deposited into waterways, onto floodplains and beaches and ultimately the coastal environment. Removing all the trees from steep slopes next to waterways increases the risk of sediment generation and its detrimental effect on the river.

The proposed plan change on forestry harvest activities aims to address this issue.

Proposed plan changes

Council is currently reviewing the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan (TRMP) and will be reviewing the Plan in 2 phases. In the first phase (2020 – 2025) relevant to the Ūawa Catchment,

Council is aiming to:

  • Undertake a Forestry Plan Change, reviewing and developing new provisions that regulate forestry harvest activities in the catchment.
  • Develop a Freshwater Catchment Plan, which contains provisions that manage the quality and quantity of freshwater in the catchment.

Council’s Sustainable Tairāwhiti Committee approved the planned approach to the Forestry Harvest Plan Change on 28 February 2024. There are 2 workstreams under this Plan Change:

Workstream 1: Forestry Harvest plan change

This workstream focuses on the better management of unsafe, unstable and erosion prone land. The plan change will focus on reducing the risk of land failure and significant debris flow events occurring.

There are three parts to this work:

  1. Changes to the Tairāwhiti Resource Management Plan by introducing new policies and rules on forestry harvest size and area.
  2. Development of a Catchment Forestry Plan template (CFP), which will serve as guidance integrating best practice management tailored to a specific catchment’s issues, pressures and threats.
  3. Using a Four-Wellbeings Model to assess the current state of the industry and the likely impacts on the four wellbeings (social, cultural, environmental and economic) from the Forestry Harvest Plan Change.
Workstream 2: Mapping the unstable land – Land Overlay 3B

Council is identifying the most extreme erosion-prone land across the region - referred to as the purple zone in the MILU report. Council refers to this zone the Land Overlay 3B as an extension of its current land overlay framework.

Land Overlay 3B is unsuitable for forestry or farming and will form the basis of new rules supporting its transition to long-term vegetation cover.

Land Overlay 3B will be first applied to the Ūawa Catchment to support the development of a Catchment Forestry Plan.

Council will develop a Freshwater Catchment Plan for the Ūawa catchment as part of its implementation of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020.

A Freshwater Catchment Plan is a tool that focuses on managing freshwater and land uses at a catchment scale. They provide a way to:

  • identify and understand the freshwater values relevant to the catchment area
  • set a vision for how we want to see the catchment area in the future
  • outline the requirements and actions needed for achieving that vision

The Ūawa catchment Plan will provide a pathway for managing freshwater quality and quantity. This pathway will be set in conjunction with tangata whenua, stakeholders and the community and will help Council make better decisions about land and water use within this area.

The Ūawa Catchment Working Group

We are establishing an Ūawa Catchment Working Group to inform the development of the Catchment Forestry Plan and the Freshwater Catchment Plan.

Application Period: Monday 13 May 2024 - Monday 3 June 2024

Once you fill out the application form, email us at

We will notify successful applicants by Friday 7 June 2024

The purpose of the Ūawa Catchment Working Group is to bring together the knowledge and local expertise of the people who know the catchment area best. The discussions from the Group will inform the development of the Catchment Forestry Plan and the Freshwater Catchment Plan.

A total of 12 members are being sought for the group. Mana whenua (Ngāti Porou and Te Aitanga a Hauiti) will nominate their representatives onto the Working Group. We invite other interested parties to submit their Expression of Interest for the working group via the application form.

Mana whenua can elect to participate in the plan development outside of the evaluation process.

A chair will be appointed by Council and Hauiti Mana Kaitieki Collective for this Working Group.

Hui will begin in mid-June 2024. The Group will cover both forestry and freshwater components in the first 4 hui to ensure an integrated approach in the catchment management planning.

The remaining 5 hui will look to wrap up the freshwater planning process, leading to first draft of the Ūawa Freshwater Catchment Plan in May 2025.

Council will be evaluating applications to decide suitability of applicants and to ensure a suitable size of membership. Criteria for evaluating applications are:

  • Demonstrated strong link to Tairāwhiti region and/or the Ūawa Catchment
  • Have experience in forestry and interest in freshwater
  • Demonstrated ability to work with others and collaborate.

Once the application period closes, Council will evaluate the applicants based on the above criteria.

How to get involved

  • Check for any open engagements - kōrero mai via our engagement portal
  • Ask us a question - email the team
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