Forestry Minister Stuart Nash open to review into forestry slash after damage following Cyclone Hale

Efforts are finally underway to clear mountains of forestry debris littering Gisborne beaches following Cyclone Hale.

But Federated Farmers and the community want an urgent Government inquiry, with residual material and slash from forestry harvesting damaging the district each time there's a storm.

"I just wish the Government would listen to the people who are out there living it and also getting bloody frustrated every time it rains," said Federated Farmers meat and wool Gisborne chair Sam Hain.

More than 5000 people have now signed a petition calling for an inquiry into how forestry land is harvested and stabilised into the future. It will be presented to the Gisborne District Council this week.

In 1988 after Cyclone Bola, thousands of trees were planted to stabilise eroded slopes, but those trees are now being harvested, re-exposing the land.

"We need better decisions to be made by the people who have the skills and have the knowledge rather than companies chasing the buck all the time," said Hain.

"The Government has got the ETS settings wrong, that's part of the issue. All they are encouraging is more and more pine trees. What they need to encourage if they want to plant trees in New Zealand is the planting of natives."

Five forestry companies have been fined since the 2018 floods. Fines ranged from $124,000 to $379,000.

While the industry insists it has made changes, some of the debris that swept down this month is from forests unharvested since then. 

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash open to review into forestry slash after damage following Cyclone Hale
Photo credit: Newshub.

The Eastland Wood Council claims it "supports a review" with "a 20 to 50-year outlook" working with stakeholders like the council, iwi and locals.

The Forestry Owners Association said going forward, "we know that with the weather, we are going to have some land that is unstable and the best solution there is permanent native cover."

Minister of Forestry Stuart Nash says: "What we may look to do is turn more land into permanent forestry as opposed to forest that is harvested, so that is where I would support a review but not a review of forestry in general."

Radiata pine is profitable, the forestry sector is worth $6.6 billion to New Zealand. 

"We need a transitional radiata regime that you have one rotation of radiata and then it transitions into indigenous forestry," Nash said.

Federated Farmers said there need to be frank discussions on what the future would look like and how forestry, farming and residents could continue to live as a cohesive group, without the devastation slash brings.

"The companies just don't seem to be held to account, otherwise it wouldn't keep happening," said Hain.