I am very concerned that our Wairoa District Council and community aspirations for the future of Wairoa, as demonstrated through our Long Term Plan, do not align with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Long Term Plan vision.

Central Government isn’t helping us to stop our Wairoa farms being blanket planted into trees and we are now seeing the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council advocating tree planting in Wairoa through recent comments, such as the following by chief executive James Palmer, “There are significant areas of land in Wairoa district that will in time need to go to permanent forest cover.”

Based on Mr Palmer’s comments it appears he wants Wairoa to become the carbon-sink for the rest of Hawke’s Bay. 

In Wairoa, significant areas of land are already planted in forestry, DoC/native reserves, or planted by the farm owners. Therefore, we assume the only significant land left that could be planted is hill country farms. The consequences of more tree planting are dire for Wairoa. We cannot afford more of our viable hill country farms to be planted.

We support what the regional council is trying to achieve from an environmental perspective, but the Wairoa district cannot be the sacrificial lamb to support carbon credits for the rest of the region.

The Regional Council has to get out of the mindset that the majority of Wairoa farms are unproductive and slipping into waterways. There are generations of successful farmers in Wairoa, farming is their livelihood.  

Just because a farm is hilly or has steep faces does not mean it’s unproductive. 

Forestry does kill small towns and it does not invest in them. This is demonstrated by the hundreds of the trucks and rail carriages full of logs that leave our district every week. There may be people clipping the ticket from forestry, but it is not Wairoa.

Of course, there are some erosion prone sites in Wairoa that need to be planted, but most land can be managed by careful plantings, such as riparian, to prevent soil loss while also being farmed to provide food and employment.

It’s about the right tree in the right place, not blanket planting of significant areas. 

We need to change this mindset and stop the propaganda spreading.

Forestry causes massive environmental destruction involving erosion and slash or the damage to the eco-systems and soil caused through forestry and harvesting.

Everyone talks up forestry as being clean and green, but they forget what happens after harvesting when the remains are brown and dead. We just need to look at the massive disasters caused by forestry slash and silt in our waterways.

I have urged the Regional Council to start focussing on what damage forestry does to the environment, from planting when entire native bush areas are sprayed out, to harvesting when eco-systems are alienated and topsoils removed.

What happens to the soil after each rotation of forestry when the goodness has been sucked out of the ground and the trees are taken away … especially after the third or fourth rotation? Is there any research into what that impact on the environment is?

Carbon revenue is also a very short-sighted approach. What happens after these blanket planted carbon forests have absorbed all their carbon and the landowner no longer receives carbon credits? This land will then become a liability to the landowner, will this mean the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will no longer derive rates from this unproductive land?

Mr Palmer has also suggested Wairoa has potential through value added wood processing opportunities. I would welcome the regional council to take the lead on the development of such a venture, as historically timber processing in Wairoa has not been sustainable. Even the mill we do have here now struggles at times to maintain a supply of pruned logs.

Mr Palmer also talks about water quality, referring to the damage farm livestock and fertiliser causes to the environment. Yet he overlooks the destruction involving erosion and slash or the damage to the eco-systems and soil caused through forestry and harvesting.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and its chief executive need to stop the rhetoric around farmers being a problem and start focussing on all land use over the entire region. It is time to stop treating Wairoa separately from the rest of Hawke’s Bay and instead treat us equally.

I have invited Regional Council chairman Rex Graham and elected members to spend a few days in Wairoa and learn more about our community. I think they will be quite surprised.

Photo: logging trucks carting logs out of the Wairoa district on State Highway 2

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