Cyclone Gabrielle: Forestry company boss apologises after slash damages Gisborne region

The boss of one of the forestry companies blamed for slash damage in Tairāwhiti has apologised and conceded forestry is now a topic just as divisive in local families as COVID-19 vaccination used to be.

His comments come as the Gisborne region - from Tolaga Bay north - sits under another heavy rain warning on Monday night.

Forestry is now a dirty word in these sticks, and it's not hard to see why.

The clean-up job being done by forestry workers is dirty work in a mess many people say they created. 

Newshub asked Aratu Forests Limited CEO Neil Woods if he accepted responsibility and felt guilty - he had this to say.

"There is no doubt that forestry debris is moving, there is no doubt that there are some practices we need to improve but to say it's all the fault of forestry is something that is difficult for us to swallow," Woods said.

Newshub asked if he is apologetic for the damage forestry has done.

"Oh very apologetic, very sorry," he replied.

"So we need to put our hand up and do something different. So yeah we do apologise for any harm we have caused to others."

A crew from Aratu Forest Limited, one of the largest forestry estates in the district, is helping make it right by cleaning it up.

Rain fell hard as they attempted to clear the silt and debris, sometimes it's one muddy step forward and three back. They smiled but were tired, and they all want the rain to stop.

"We are going to have to get out of here shortly because it's pouring. We don't want to get stuck here. It's psychologically draining. The boys are up for it and are doing a good job but they are getting a bit tired of it now," Aratu forester Guy Allen said.

It was a grey miserable day on the coast on many levels.

Everywhere you looked there was slash - ugly, destructive and devastating. It has caused billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure and destroyed lives and livelihoods.

Newshub asked Woods why they don't take the slash with them and get rid of it.

"We have a programme of increasingly utilizing that material, there is not a big market for it in Gisborne, it needs to be put somewhere," Woods said.

Gisborne wishes it wasn't there, with the main beaches in town still closed and carpeted in slash.

Woods said not all of it is related to harvesting operations, some is from unexpected landslips from pine plantations. 

However, he poses a solution of 'slash traps', structures to capture the offcuts.

"We believe a number of those in strategic locations will be another piece of the puzzle to preventing the debris from heading out from forest land and onto beaches," Woods said.

He said while changes need to be made, forestry is vital for the country and one in four jobs in this district is linked to the forestry industry. 

It puts much-needed food on the table, a roof over heads and keeps families together. It's work and income. But the ultimate cost is the question now: what is it for this district and what would happen without it?

"I think the impact on our district would be dire and very quick," Woods said.

But there's one more issue the industry is facing - abuse, publicly and personally.

"There are elements of that and I'm aware that this is starting to divide families as the COVID vaccination did back in the day."

The last thing this community needs right now is division.