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Monitoring aims to better manage forestry slash damage

Forestry

A monitoring project that started last year to manage issues relating to forestry slash has been welcomed by the Hastings District Council Rural Community Board.

In November last year, Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council began jointly funding a Forestry Compliance Officer to work across the Hastings district monitoring forestry operations and, if necessary, educating forestry companies on better managing forestry slash.

Forestry slash is scrap timber, branches and offcuts left behind in a felling area that, especially in periods of heavy rain, if not managed properly, can cause severe damage to council assets such as roads, bridges and culverts, as well as putting the community at risk.

With its steep topography and soil type, the Hastings district is particularly vulnerable to this risk.

Although not as at risk as further up the East Coast, the potentially damaging effects of forestry slash were graphically highlighted at Tolaga Bay in 2018, and again in July this year.

At this week’s Rural Community Board meeting, members were told that with climate change likely to make heavy rain events more frequent, coupled with the current high level of forestry harvesting activity on the East Coast there would be great benefit to have forestry slash managed properly.

This could be done by containing the material on-site in traps so it remained within harvesting areas during heavy rain events, and putting enhanced safeguards around culverts.

RCB chair Nick Dawson said the board felt it important that ratepayers could have confidence that the forestry industry was being closely monitored and supported in best practice to ensure that our rural roads, bridges and landscapes weren’t being damaged by poor forestry management. 

“We saw with Tolaga Bay, and closer to home at McVicar Rd Bridge at Te Haroto last year, the devastating downstream impact poorly managed forestry slash can have.

“As well as causing costly damage to bridge and roads, which has the potential to cut off rural communities, it’s damaging to the environment – both in terms of the land, streams and wildlife.”

“Having this forestry compliance officer out monitoring activity and talking to forestry companies means there is a better opportunity to ensure practices are in place to prevent this damage from occurring.”

Because of the impact of COVID-19, which cut back or completely stopped forestry harvesting over two to three months, site visits have continued where possible and the programme will continue more fully as forestry operations resume.

29 September 2020

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