Marlborough dairy farmer fears logging operation will destroy property

Lone Sorensen says the new road would be a huge threat to her livelihood.
Lone Sorensen says the new road would be a huge threat to her livelihood. Photo credit: Supplied/RNZ/Lone Sorensen

By Tracy Neal for RNZ

A recently widowed Marlborough dairy farmer says a logging operation that has sprung up on a neighbouring property is likely to destroy her farm.

Lone Sorensen, who farms in a valley between Havelock and Blenheim, is enraged that a paper road through her property could become a major transport route for trucks and heavy vehicles.

The Marlborough District Council said it was doing what it could to smooth the pathway for all.

Sorensen said it was a huge threat to her livelihood and the lifestyle of those in the valley. While the noise, dust, and danger from trucks passing all-hours would be bad enough, she said not being told it was going to happen, was worse.

"This is my biggest issue, and it's something I simply can't get my head around is that all this has taken place without any consultation with me; nothing - not a word."

The paper road through her farm has been used as a track for more than a century, and more lately for the milk tanker to get to and from cow sheds.

Local residents maintain it at their own cost.

Sorensen figured something was up when an application was lodged with the council last year to close the road for four weeks, to replace a bridge.

"And I just thought, 'What!', I mean how were we going to get the milk out, how was my business going to exist?

"We can't have my tanker track closed just like that, for four weeks."

Marlborough dairy farmer fears logging operation will destroy property
Photo credit: Supplied/RNZ/Lone Sorensen

Sorensen lodged a submission which ultimately prompted an onsite meeting with the council, the roading authority and her lawyer.

Councillor Francis Maher said the overseas-owned logging firm was about to lodge an application to use the paper road, and the council would work with Marlborough Roads to set the terms and conditions.

Marlborough Roads is the district's state and locally-funded roading management system.

Maher said a lot of these forestry blocks were located up "dark gullies", and similar situations were emerging everywhere.

"We have to work through them calmly and quietly and within the law."

She said the logging firm was prepared to stump up with costs to help mitigate some of the bigger concerns.

"The forestry company are (sic) prepared to spend... I think a figure they mentioned to us was over $100,000 to make this happen, including suppression of dust."

Sorensen said they suggested building a cow race so there was no conflict with trucks and animals, but she would have to pay half.

"And I just said there's no way I'm paying anything.

"I mean, we have spent probably at least $100,000 over the years maintaining that road, so I can not see it's reasonable that I should pay anything for people invading my space.

"That's how I feel it, really."

Marlborough dairy farmer fears logging operation will destroy property
Photo credit: Supplied/RNZ/Lone Sorensen

Sorensen said the logging could take years, with up to 10 trucks daily rumbling up and down the valley.

Maher confirmed it was likely to be a long-term logging project.

Sorensen's lawyer, Peter Radich, said while he could not talk specifics of the case, matters around the use of paper roads were often fraught.

He said they were unformed roads that existed lawfully on paper, and which the public could walk up and down.

"But if they need to form the road and put foundations in, and bridges and the like, then that work is required to be consented to by the council.

"If that work has some aspects to it which need resource consent, then they may need to get resource consent approval as well."

Radich said in some cases health and safety matters might also have to be addressed.

Sorensen, who has been dealing with property and farm matters since her husband's death a year ago, does not want a costly battle.

The valley community is now also rallying and plans to form a group.

Councillor Maher is hopeful of a good outcome for all.

"It's never actually perfect for everyone in these things. There always has to be some give and take and I feel confident we're within reach of that.

"A fortnight ago I thought this was going to be almost impossible."

Sorensen said a skid site was currently being built by the firm, ready to begin logging.