As the government scrambles to come up with better regulations for forestry slash, it is unclear how much damage it caused in the Masterton area during Cyclone Gabrielle.
Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said that Masterton District Council [MDC] has worked to remove forestry slash from bridge abutments.
A subsequent response to a Times-Age query clarified that the “slash” cleared had been a mix of riparian plantings and native trees.
“Forestry slash was an issue on parts of Springhill Rd, Annedale Rd, and Ngahape Rd but, given the scale of forestry operations in the district, was not the major issue experienced in other parts of the country,” an MDC spokesperson said.
“Flooding caused by Cyclone Gabrielle also saw a considerable number of native trees washed into the Tinui River, along with willows and poplars. Fences were also affected by riparian planting washed away by flooding.”
Greater Wellington Regional Council catchment management general manager Wayne O’Donnell said: “While several reports of ‘forestry slash’ have been made to the council, upon investigation, these have turned out to be other flood debris such as willows and poplars.”
O’Donnell said the council has not received any reports of environmental damage caused by forestry slash, and that staff are dealing with the reports in line with usual processes.
The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry [NES-PF], part of the Resource Management Act, defines slash as “tree waste left behind after plantation forestry activities”.
“The aim of the slash trap [a forestry mechanism] is to reduce the risk of slash leaving the plantation forest and limiting its potential adverse effects if it does,” the NES-PF notes.
The government announced the launch of a ministerial inquiry into forestry slash on February 23.
The waste from timber clearance has been blamed for making recent flood damage in areas like Gisbourne worse.
The Green Party said forestry companies should have to compensate councils, landowners, and communities for damage caused by slash and sediment.
Greens co-leader James Shaw said slash devastation has been a recurring issue, and companies need to contribute to the cost of the clean-up.
“Those companies benefit from the activity that they engage with there.
“The fact that communities, farms, households have been completely wiped out there is well beyond a simple fining regime, and they should contribute if they want to be able to operate.”
Shaw said plantation forestry might need to be retired for steep and erosion-prone areas.
Forestry Minister Stuart Nash said that it is totally unacceptable that slash is ending up on beaches after heavy rain.
The Forestry Industry Contractors Association later clarified that contractors should be included when investigating solutions for slash or woody debris.
“Our forestry contractors are physically on the ground and have practical and valuable knowledge about what will be possible and most effective in managing woody debris,” association chief executive Prue Younger said.
“We are keen to see the industry work together and redeem our social licence to operate. Problem-solving without the input of contractors will be detrimental to the outcome.”