Cyclone Gabrielle: Forestry Minister Stuart Nash says Government won't be bound by recommendations from inquiry into slash

Stuart Nash says the Government won't be bound by the recommendations from the ministerial inquiry into forestry slash. 

The inquiry, which was announced on Thursday, will look into the damage forestry slash created across Tairāwhiti during Cyclone Gabrielle, Cyclone Hale and other previous weather events. 

It will be chaired by Hekia Parata, a former National Party minister and Gisborne resident, who is already involved in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the COVID-19 response. 

Forestry slash, which is waste or debris from industry practices, was pushed down rivers during the most recent cyclone, blocking waterways, covering beaches, and contributing to the damage. A 12-year-old boy died when he was injured by a floating log last month. 

It's been an issue for decades, including in Cyclone Bola in 1988. After damage from that cyclone, tens of thousands of hectares of trees were planted on highly erodible land in the airāwhitiand Gisborne to stabilise slopes. 

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash faced questions over the speed of the inquiry on Newshub Nation on Saturday. 

Speaking with co-host Rebecca Wright, Nash said he thinks the Government has "moved with speed". 

But Wright pointed out the inquiry wasn't announced until 10 days after Cyclone Gabrielle and more than a month after Hale. 

"The bottom line is we have listened," Nash replied. "I completely accept that things need to change, I accept that. Ten thousand Tairāwhiti residents signed a petition, the people of Gisborne want this to change as well."

However, the Minister said forestry is an incredibly important industry for the region and is part of the solution. 

"About one in four people in the district are connected somehow to the forestry sector or wood processing. This is a really important part of the east coast community but we all acknowledge that things need to be done differently.

"But I do believe that forestry is the solution to a lot of problems we've got on the east coast, it's just the different management regimes, it's how we do it, is it production forestry, permanent forestry and what needs to happen with harvesting slash once harvesting operations conclude or in the middle of harvesting operations," he said.

Nash also defended the fact forestry slash was just one element of the inquiry - not the sole focus and the fact it doesn't cover the Hawke's Bay region. 

"First and foremost this needs to be a quick inquiry and it's down for about two weeks so the enquiry team is going to report back in April. There have been a number of these instances in Gisborne. The region has a whole lot of highly erodible soil so we need to concentrate on that as a matter of course. 

"But don't expect that the recommendations that come out of this review [not to] be applicable to the forestry companies in Hawke's Bay," he added. 

Nash also admitted the Government won't actually be bound by the recommendations but he said they will be taken seriously. 

"Let's see the recommendations [first] but this is a very serious inquiry…This hasn't been put in place just to placate people. This has been put in place to get some really serious solutions to an unacceptable position we find ourselves in and we will act on this," he said. 

Watch the full video for more. 

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