Every time heavy rains hits Uawa - Tolaga Bay, a sense of nervousness washes over the community that a fresh delivery of forestry slash could be brought down from the hillsides.
After years of discussions, it's hoped a native planting project announced by the area's largest forestry operation will help protect homes, waterways and coastlines.
Aratu Forests, one of New Zealand's 10 largest freehold forest plantations, has announced a 90-year 'right to plant' land management agreement with sustainable land-use company, eLandNZ - with the backing of the Gisborne District Council.
The programme will see permanent native plantings established in parts of the 35,000 hectare estate which are unsuitable for timber plantation.
In the first 25-years a streamside native forest with primary species including mānuka will be planted, as well as belts of larger native trees in higher areas and flax in flood zones.
In 2018, heavy rain resulted in thousands of tonnes of forestry debris being washed down into the catchment, seriously damaging homes and farmland and causing millions of dollars of damage. The Gisborne District Council prosecuted 10 forestry companies - including Aratu Forests - previously known as Hikurangi Forest Farms.
Ūawanui Environmental Sustainability Project spokesperson Victor Walker said locals had long been calling for solutions to tackle the forestry debris problem and this week's announcement was a good step forward.
"Our iwi and community, including our schools have been facilitating meetings to discuss environmental remediation and the impacts of the woody debris and flooding on our community in numerous forums for over a decade. These have been challenging times."
Walker said the forestry industry employed was a major employer in the area and generated significant benefits for the local economy, but the sector had to operate in a way that kept the community safe.
"Whenever it rains... you can feel our whole community goes to another level of anxiety, if you've been here in the times of the rains and the floods it's really pretty scary.
"What we've got on the table now ... seems to be quite a realistic and much waited for approach going forward ... we're optimistic about it," he said.
Aratu Forests chief executive Neil Woods said in the first year of the agreement approximately 170 hectares of the Aratu Forests estate will be prepared for planting.
"With the full support of our board, we are voluntarily investing in this initiative because it is the right thing to do, and stands to deliver long-term benefits for the environment, the community and our company."
ELandNZ managing director Sheldon Drummond said the specific environmental improvements of the project would include greater biodiversity, improved water quality and a reduction in wood debris moving offsite during any future flood event.
"Community expectation on improved environmental management of our land and waterways requires the forest industry to be thinking long-term while also taking action today.
"We are confident this project will pioneer a new standard for sustainable forestry practices, which can be replicated across other fragile forestry environments," he said.