Outrage after footage shows Tolaga Bay blanketed by logs and forestry debris

A Gisborne local says he and his whānau are "clearly upset" after finding Tolaga Bay covered in felled logs and debris this week.

Puri Hauiti, a teacher in Gisborne, filmed footage of the logs on Monday. 

The video has since been shared online and viewed more than 125,000 times. 

Hauiti told Newshub the debris is caused by forestry slash that has come down the Uawa River and washed up on the foreshore.

And he says it's not the first time such a thing has happened.

"As a descendent of the area, myself and our whānau are clearly upset knowing that our waterways are being polluted, our food sources are being polluted and the safety of our kids and whānau and our land is a mess," he said.

"It's diabolical."

Henry Gaddum, a local farmer who shared Hauiti's footage online, says such a sight is common after heavy rain. And he says he has seen similar images on other beaches on the coast.

"The beaches there are all the same," Gaddum told Newshub."They've been wrecked for the last 10 years, and they used to be you couldn't even find a log on them and now you can't even hardly see the sand."

Gaddum says he has concerns the situation will get worse if more trees are planted as a result of the Emissions Trading Scheme, which many fear incentivises the acceleration of productive farmland being converted to pines planted for carbon credits.

"We don't need any more pines on the coast. Even if they're going to be harvested we've got enough country that can be replanted that's already been planted in pines. But if they turn around and start planting all this new land in carbon pines and leave these trees to grow huge and heavy then they're going to come down the bloody rivers as whole trees and start taking out bridges and stuff."

Gisborne Regional Council's director of environmental services and protection Helen Montgomery said a monitoring and compliance team was investigating the incident.

"Our forestry consent monitoring has increased significantly since the heavy rain event over Queens Birthday weekend in 2018. We have implemented a proactive monitoring programme, working directly with the forestry industry to ensure compliance with consent requirements," Montgomery told Newshub.

She said the council takes its responsibility to protect the environment and natural beauty of the area seriously and had successfully prosecuted a number of companies for offences relating to the discharge of contaminants.  

Kim Holland, chief executive of Eastland Wood Council, which represents the forest industry in the Eastland region, said there was very little fresh wood among the debris which showed the new practices implemented after 2018 were "working well".

"Our assessment is that it is predominantly old material from the June 2018 floods which has been stuck on the flats, in valleys and on the south bank of the Uawa," Holland told Newshub. 

"There was material left at the river mouth to protect the habitat of the endangered dotterel that nest there. This was material that we either could not get to, or the council did not allow us to dispose of at the time we were clearing the beach back in 2018. Unfortunately this has been mobilised again in the latest storm event. This will continue to occur but with progressively less material until everything is flushed out," she said.

"Flights over forest estates have shown no damage or mobilisation from the recent heavy rain events," Holland said.

She said the local forestry industry would work with the community and council to clean up and dispose of the debris.

Montgomery said the local community was encouraged to report any issues around forestry slash to the council.