Wellington boy dies after injury involving forestry slash at Gisborne beach

A Wellington boy has died following an incident at a Gisborne beach believed to have involved forestry slash, sparking renewed calls for an inquiry into land use in the area.

Police confirmed to Newshub a child became injured while at Waikanae beach on Wednesday evening and died a short time later.

The beach has recently been covered in debris including large logs due to several severe weather events in the region.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz told Newshub she is "devastated" by the death. 

"On behalf of our community, we send our aroha, our prayers to the family in this very, very sad time," she said.

"We are a close-knit community and this is an unimaginable loss. So on behalf of the community of Gisborne, we extend our love and support to this whānau." 

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz.
Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz. Photo credit: Newshub

Stoltz wasn't sure how the child sustained his injuries but was getting an update from police on Thursday afternoon.

She said she would be contacting the family to offer support.

Stoltz said she wasn't sure if the beach was closed at the time of the boy's death, but Surf Life Saving New Zealand spokesperson Rob McGregor told Newshub the beach was officially closed due to water quality at the time of the incident and he understood lifeguards were not on duty.

McGregor also confirmed the child who died was a boy from Wellington.

The Eastland Wood Council said they were also saddened to hear of the boy's death.

"First and foremost, we are sending our aroha to the family and our thoughts and sympathies are with them," they said.

"We stand ready to be part of any inquiries and will work with authorities to support whānau where possible.

"As Gisborne District Council has outlined, works are being undertaken on beaches this week. We encourage people to stay clear while we undertake this clean-up work as quickly and as safely as possible. The industry is continuing to contribute resources to the clean-up, such as machinery and personnel, to assist with efforts."

A Gisborne local told Stuff the incident took place outside the Waikanae Beach Surf Life Saving Club.

The local said slash had proved to be a problem on the beach recently, with children seen playing in and about debris.

A petition calling for changes to the way forestry is carried out in the area, so destruction caused by major storms like Cyclone Hale can be avoided, has received over 8500 signatures. 

Stoltz said the council supports the petition and wants an independent review into forestry. 

"We will also continue our own investigation into the origin of the woody debris and support calls for an independent inquiry into future land use in Tairāwhiti.

"The state of our waterways is unacceptable."

Stoltz said stakeholders "need to sit down and talk about how to operate in a more sustainable way". 

"So we've taken the points from the petition. Council is supportive of us looking at ways how we can better what we do because what we are currently doing is not working."