Masses of forestry debris that flooded a small town north of Gisborne has created a NZ$10 million cleanup, but questions have been raised about who should pay. Heavy rain caused water to flood through Tolaga Bay, crashing through homes when the Mangaheia River burst its banks on Monday reports Friday Offcuts.
It took slash – forestry debris – in its wake damaging roads and bridges and piling up on farms and in gullies. Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said while the forestry sector would support in what he expected to be a NZ$10m cleanup, ratepayers would have to help pay. Foon said most of the flood damage affected roads and bridges.
When asked if forestry should foot the whole bill for clean-up efforts, Foon said forestry had been supportive in the past. The council began looking into the issue of slash in the wake of ex-tropical Cyclone Cook in April last year. As of two months ago a national environment standard meant there were stricter planting and fresh water rules. “We will be making sure that we implement those,” Foon said.
Forestry Minister Shane Jones called the debris-strewn flood an extraordinarily severe weather event and a “wake-up call”. The Government, he said, would decide in the next week or so what it could do to help. We’ve got to do better. I don’t know of anyone in the forest sector who does not accept that their practices need to improve.”
New Zealand Forest Owners Association communications manager Don Carson said the land which held slash and timbers was some of the most “highly erodible” land in the world. Similar incidences were known to happen but no landscape could have tolerated such a high amount of isolated rainfall. The area was forested in “less enlightened times”.
Carson said anyone who caused environmental damage should not buck their obligations, nor should anyone be held totally accountable. “I do know that companies in the Nelson area assisted in the cleanup there. I would expect the same sort of thing to happen in Tolaga Bay.”
Photo: Marty Sharpe