Banning forestry no cure for storm damage

Logging on steep sites in environmentally fragile locations has come under the spotlight again in the wake of damage caused by ex-tropical cyclone Gita.

Residents in the Tasman region have signed a petition calling for stronger controls on logging after debris swept around their residences in Marahau and the Motueka valley during the storm late last month.

But the Tasman District Council says stopping timber operations in the hills around slip-affected communities near Abel Tasman National Park won't guarantee an end to the kind of damage caused by Gita.

Speaking to the Nelson Evening Mail, Tasman's Deputy Mayor Tim King says the region is "not a benign environment" and warns that "whatever we put in place and whatever national regulation there is, is not going to make that go away."

He says it was important to point out the scale of Gita, the volume of rainfal, and the nature of the ‘Separation Point Granites’, a strip of granitic bedrock that stretched 100 kilometres south from the Abel Tasman National Park.

"For as long as people have lived in Nelson, this land has eroded, collapsed, under whatever land use that happened to have been in at the time," he told the Mail, referring to floods in 1877, when 300 acres of native bush near Ngatimoti "fell into the Motueka Valley".

Slips and debris flows on February 20 had not only occurred on pine forest sites and recently logged land, but in areas of native bush, regenerating land use, and pasture.

Some logging waste was already cleared away from the major forestry companies' skid sites by Nelson-based wood energy supplier, Azwood, Mr King points out.

"Whether it is practical and economically feasible to remove every last vestige of wood from a harvested hill, I don't think the council can just impose that requirement, without working through whether that's actually a pragmatic solution."

If forestry land wasn't to be used for forestry, Mr King questioned what else it would be used for.

The new National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry comes into effect in May will improve things like restrictions on planting into gullies and waterways, and potentially help introduce native trees, but it would also make it harder to change species; an "unintended consequence" of trying to stop foresters converting from radiata pine to Douglas-fir, he says.

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