Ministers, stakeholders meet to discuss Gisborne land-use practices

5:50 pm on 2 February 2023
Ministers and key stakeholders met in Gisborne on Wednesday to discuss land-use issues, particularly in relation to forestry slash.

Ministers and key stakeholders met in Gisborne on Wednesday to discuss land-use issues, particularly in relation to forestry slash. Photo: Uawa Live

A review of land-use in Tairāwhiti looks likely following a meeting at Gisborne District Council yesterday, but there is some confusion about what exactly was settled behind closed doors.

Four government ministers met yesterday afternoon with key stakeholders in Gisborne - including mayor Rehette Stoltz, mana whenua and forestry representatives - to discuss a way forward for the region following widespread devastation from recent weather events.

The meeting resulted in a collective agreement for an independent review, with a proposal that a working party be established to draft its terms of reference, scope and time frame.

At the centre of the issue is slash - woody debris left behind by the forestry industry which clogs waterways during heavy rain.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri was at the meeting and said it came about from ministers being in town to inspect damage.

Whaitiri said she flew over the region yesterday with Forestry Minister Stuart Nash as part of an initiative to inspect what had happened "first-hand".

"The unanimous thing we were presented with was the call for a review on land-use going forward," Whaitiri said of yesterday's meeting.

"The locals (the regional leadership group present at the meeting) will determine what the review will cover, what the terms of reference will be and the oversight group who will oversee the review."

Federated Farmers national board member Toby Williams was also present at the meeting, and said everyone was on board with a review.

"Everybody was keen to have this review and everybody was supportive of it. We hope to have the whole thing up and running by the end of February."

Nash was not available for an interview on Thursday morning but has said he is open to an independent inquiry or review into land management practices on erosion-prone land in Tairāwhiti.

However, his office said there had been no decision on a review or inquiry.

Local Democracy Reporting understands that there were four key outcomes from the meeting.

Those include the establishment of a group to guide an inquiry and shape the terms of reference for it; the facilitation of ongoing collaboration between those present at the meeting; and efforts to obtain central government resourcing for a Just Transition Plan - a government pilot which supports regions through times of radical economic change.

The fourth centred on communications about forestry industry activity since 2018, in light of future-proofing the region.

Woody debris piled up against a Tairāwhiti bridge in the wake of Cyclone Hale, which made landfall in the region on January 9.

Woody debris piled up against a Tairāwhiti bridge in the wake of Cyclone Hale, which made landfall in the region on January 9. Photo: Uawa Live

Yesterday's meeting comes on the heels of a council meeting last week where councillors showed strong support for a public petition to lessen the effects of ongoing environmental disasters in Tairāwhiti.

Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti - which represents farmers, landowners and conservation workers in the region - presented an 8500-strong petition (now 9455) to council last Thursday.

It called on the council to support an independent inquiry into the regulatory system for land-use in Tairāwhiti and asked the organisation to prioritise a review of land-use rules for the erosion-prone land that comprises 80 percent of the region.

Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti representative Manu Caddie was present at yesterday's meeting and said it felt as if ministers were committed to an independent inquiry.

Caddie's group was pushing for this in favour of a review, as it felt the latter could be controlled by locals with a "vested interest".

In a statement, Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti claimed Nash told those present he supported an independent inquiry into land-use on highly erodible soils in Tairāwhiti, and that the process was now being initiated with Cabinet colleagues.


Nash told the meeting a major challenge facing the industry was building trust and confidence from communities.

"Since 2018, the industry has done quite a lot of work to improve its practices and contribute to the clean-up of slash.

"The problem is that nobody outside of the industry and the people in this hui know about it."

Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Porou chair Selwyn Parata supported a review, but felt it needed to be one that learned from the past, with a target of identifying the most appropriate land-use options going forward.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the council supported the community's call for an inquiry and was committed to working with stakeholders to ensure improvements were made.

East Coast MP Kiritapu Allan said she was pleased to be part of a meeting which had a common goal of addressing the needs of the community.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor was also present on Wednesday.

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