'A bloody mess!': Tolaga Bay residents let loose at forestry companies

Tolaga Bay residents say they've been left with more questions than answers following a fiery community meeting on Wednesday night.

The discussion was designed to give locals a chance to find out why their town was swamped with flooding debris during recent floods.

They came in their dozens and they demanded answers; Tolaga Bay asking forestry companies to take responsibility for the slash that clogged waterways and covered properties.

"There are lots of things that have got to be done. We want everyone to come to the party, especially the forestry companies," said local farmer Nikki Jefferd.

Three weeks ago, torrential rain hammered the region, bringing flooding, slips and hundreds of tonnes of logging debris.

Locals blame forestry companies for not correctly disposing of the off-cuts - but the companies say the land is extremely prone to erosion and they're working within the rules.

"Our practices currently, considering the environment we work, are compliant with best practices internationally," said Warren Rance, PF Olsen branch manager.

Locals aren't buying that though, with many also arguing consenting processes need to change.

"Did you have no thought about us down here?! Did you not know about the conditions down here?! Did you not ask anyone?!" asked farmer Desmond McGrannachan.

"There's absolutely no way you could call this an act of god. It has happened through forestry mismanagement," said another, Bridget Parker.

News cameras weren't allowed to record what was said in the meeting but one source described it as "disappointing". An investigation to find out who is to blame is expected to take months.

But Newshub has now obtained documents that show locals have complained about forestry debris from as far back as 2010.

In 2013, a caller told the council his son's car was almost washed away by floodwater and logging offcuts and asked for someone to be held accountable.

In 2015, a man says slash washed through the creek at Te Puia Springs. "I thought we are going to be stricter with closer monitoring," he says.

A year later, another man complained and asked: "What is the council doing about this? Are these forestry people being made responsible?"

On Thursday the council told Newshub it takes any breach of consent extremely seriously and will instruct responsible parties to fix any mess they create.

A report in 2017 highlighted risks of logging debris following Cyclone Cook and the council said it has since updated many of its freshwater policies.

But for locals still cleaning up in Tolaga Bay, that's cold comfort.