17 Jun 2019

Compo hope after forestry firm pleads guilty over Tolaga Bay storm damage

6:43 pm on 17 June 2019

A Tolaga Bay man whose farm was wrecked in last year's devastating storms which washed debris and logs onto roads and farmland is delighted one of the forestry companies has pleaded guilty to causing damage.

Slash debris after flooding in Tolaga Bay.

Slash debris after flooding in Tolaga Bay. Photo: RNZ / Emma Hatton

Gisborne District Council has prosecuted 10 companies, including Hikurangi Forest Farms, which had entered a not guilty plea in March to discharging contaminants into the environment in breach of its resource consent.

But at a District Court hearing in Auckland today it changed its plea to guilty.

Farmer Mike Parker told Checkpoint that since the floods during Queen's Birthday weekend last year, locals have endured an emotional and testing 12 months trying to get themselves back on their feet.

"We now hope the other nine will follow and that they will recognise the damage that this has had on the community, and the financial, environmental and emotional effects on the district really."

Residents now wanted compensation for themselves and the district.

"We would now expect the GDC to apply for compensation across both public and privately damaged assets. Farms, fences, houses have all been flooded through, and then you've got bridges, especially the beaches, the rivers."

He said Hikurangi Forest Farms' admission of liability would make it easier for the council, which was under severe pressure to sort things out.

"Caring can come back to how we're being treated. I think it'll be great."

Hikurangi Forest Farms will be sentenced on 1 October. The other nine forestry companies facing similar charges will be back in court in a few months time.

Tolaga Bay, heavy rain forced piles of wood onto farmland.

One example of the piles of wood that was forced onto farmland at the time of the floods in June 2018. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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