Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Government takes action on East Coast land use report

Environment Minister, David Parker today announced the Government is backing a comprehensive package of action around land use in Tairāwhiti/Gisborne and Wairoa.

Mr Parker said the package supports the findings of the Ministerial Inquiry into the devastating East Coast weather events of 2023.

“We’re committed to change based on this report,” he said.

“Each of the report’s recommendations was carefully considered, and we are firmly focussed on reducing risk and setting this region up for sustainable longer term change.  

“Our response has two phases: immediate actions, then building resilience.”

Forestry Minister, Peeni Henare said phase one includes action to remove woody debris, as well as work to understand how best to ramp up efforts to remove woody debris that’s at risk of further damaging downstream infrastructure for the longer term.  

“The Government has already made $10.15 million in funding available to enable the clean-up of up to 70,000 tonnes of slash. An initial $3.54 million of the fund has been distributed to councils across Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay to commence clean-up operations, with a further $2 million being administered through Te Puni Kōkiri directly for whenua Māori,” said Mr Henare.

“The $10.15m is a start. But it’s clear more needs to be done to address the problem of woody debris and manage the risks to life, assets, and the environment.

“Other Government assistance for cyclone-related recovery in the region includes $202 million for silt and debris removal in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti (see below for more details) and $205 million for immediate roading repairs in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa announced this week.

“Communities want this prioritised. We need to reach a shared view of the size of the problem, actions to take and how the response should be paid for,” he said.

The Government will progress improvements around forestry management, responding to the Inquiry’s recommendations related to harvesting practices.  

“Responsibility for more active controls on forestry harvesting in the region rests with the Gisborne District Council, through specific measures in its regional plan that it is now updating,” Minister Parker said.

“This is why we are helping the Council by providing a statutory resource management advisor, so it can more quickly develop new resource management measures that are fit for purpose. This is not a reflection on the Council – rather, it recognises the scale of the task that it faces.”

Alongside the advisor, the Government will also appoint a facilitator to build partnerships, including with the forestry industry, landowners and Māori interests, to support an integrated approach to the recovery.

“Further, the Government is updating forestry management standards at the national level. This will include national guidance on forestry slash risk management and addressing risks of slope failure and slash mobilisation. This will assist the Council in updating its plan.”

“We’ve met regularly with the forestry industry and Māori with an interest in forestry,” Peeni Henare said. “They are also committed to change and are actively working with central and local government to reduce known risks.

“Again, we recognise and thank the Ministerial Inquiry for their carefully considered report. We are committed to taking meaningful action in response,” Mr Parker said.

Ministers Parker and Henare will report to Cabinet by the end of the year on initial delivery of the response.

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