23 Jan 2023

Federated Farmers calls for inquiry into ex-tropical Cyclone Hale damage factors

6:59 am on 23 January 2023
The Gladstone Road bridge in Gisborne was among those affected by forestry slash after Cyclone Hale in January, 2023.

Forestry slash is seen washed up against Gladstone Road bridge in Gisborne after ex-tropical Cyclone Hale hit earlier this month. Photo: Supplied / Gisborne District Council

Federated Farmers is calling on the government to establish an inquiry into the factors that contributed to flooding and smashed infrastructure from ex-tropical Cyclone Hale.

It said residual material and slash from forestry harvesting had significantly contributed to damage to farmland.

National board member Toby Williams said with every rain event more slash was washing down.

He said forestry operators had lifted their game.

"They're very aware of the problem. They've improved and to be fair to them, like everyone else, they're keen to see some blue skies."

But farmers were frustrated at having to continually pick debris off their land.

"We've got farmers now who are seriously considering whether they just shut the gate and walk off the land," he said.

Following Cyclone Bola in 1988, tens of thousands of hectares of trees were planted on highly erodible land in the province with the intention of stabilising slopes.

"Now those trees are being harvested, re-exposing those slopes. The storms haven't changed - in fact they're more frequent. And they are exposing current harvesting practices and the detrimental effects they are having on downstream catchments and communities," Williams said.

He said mass planting of exotics was encouraged in the region by government settings.

"If, as we are being led to believe, they are all going to be harvested, then there needs to be an urgent rethink on how and where we harvest to ensure we will not repeat the issues when the next cycle of logging looms."

Williams said the area needed government support to have some frank discussions on what the future would look like and how forestry, farming and residents could continue to live as a cohesive group.

"What we need to be able to do is have a hui as a community and get together and find out ... in 100 years what we want our community to look like."

He said Federated Farmers wanted to see local and central government work with it and the community to design a pathway forward.

In a letter to emergency management, forestry and associate environment ministers, Federated Farmers has recommended holding meetings with Tairāwhiti landowners and residents, and with Gisborne District Council.

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