Gov’t allocates ‘woody debris’ funding for HB and Tairāwhiti
Photo: Florence Charvin

A $10 million package from budget 2023 has been set aside for cleaning up 70,000 tonnes of  woody debris from rivers and catchment systems, Forestry Minister Peeni Henare announced on Sunday.

The announcement came days after the report – called Outrage to Optimism – from a Ministerial Inquiry was released. The inquiry looked at how land use contributed to debris, slash and sediment related damage in Gisborne and Wairoa, after public pressure to address the issue.

The Report’s recommendations are wide ranging and include: a call for an immediate halt to wide-scale clear felling of forestry, replacing it with a mosaic of staged logging; transitioning a new category of extreme erosion zones out of pasture and production forestry into permanent forest; and a broad package of government support for clean-up, infrastructure and economic development in the region.

Government has heeded the call for funding with its latest package, but it remains to be seen what Ministers will decide to do with the other recommendations. 

Last month BayBuzz published commentary from regenerative agriculture consultants on cyclone recovery approaches that suggested an end to clear-felling and harvesting of high-value native timbers as an alternative to low-value Radiata monoculture forestry.

The clean-up fund would go to Gisborne District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to take short to medium term measures that limit the damage of any further movement of woody debris material. Measures include removal, disposal and/or containment.

Henare said debris from these forestry regions has had a devastating impact on infrastructure, rivers, communities and the money would go some way to cleaning it up.

“What is clear, and was also highlighted by the Ministerial Inquiry led by Hekia Parata, is that debris must be cleaned up fast to prevent further damage and prepare for any future events.

“I will take time to carefully consider the report in full, but we need to get on with the clean up straight away. My officials will be meeting with councils and reaching out to iwi and community groups to determine what are the priority catchments where infrastructure and communities are most at risk, and how we can best assist.

“I want to make sure that this recovery is one for the whole community. This will involve council, iwi and experts working together closely to prioritise and remove as much woody debris as possible from rivers and catchments to reduce further damage to key infrastructure and communities.

“Local contractors will be engaged to assist with debris removal, chipping and haulage.”

The $10 million includes funding for slash management traps to contain debris entering waters in the first place.

Government is also funding soil erosion mitigation measures, announcing a pot of $25 million to be spent over the next four years to protect farmland all across the country, distributed to 14 councils for allocation. Henare said erosion cost the economy $250 million a year. 

The idea was to keep productive soils on farms and out of waterways by reducing run-off.

“We are seeing an increase in the frequency and severity of flooding events across the country due to a changing climate and we need more of the right trees in the right places to mitigate against the effects of climate change,” Henare said.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Erosion Control Scheme Booster will get $ 3,638,000 from the Hill Country Erosion Fund.

Mitigation will involve on-farm planting, retirement of land, native revegetation, exotic forestry where appropriate and widely spaced or gully plantings of poplar and willow trees within paddocks.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Integrated Catchments Group Manager Iain Maxwell welcomed the funding and said it would be a good boost for cyclone recovery efforts and said council would would work with local farmers to introduce the measures.
“This kind of work is critical for farms to build resilience to severe climate events. To support our educational efforts, we will also be developing learning modules for farmers around soil conservation. These modules will provide farmers with practical information and tips on how to conserve soil health and minimise environmental impact.”

The funding would also be used to expand the poplar and willow nursery support to increase production.
“This will contribute significantly to the restoration efforts and help to ensure the long-term sustainability of our natural environment. Hawke’s Bay has over 250,000 hectares of erosion-prone land and this funding will complement the work we plan to be undertaking through Land for Life,” Maxwell said.

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.


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