Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ministerial inquiry into Gisborne land use

Forestry Minister, Stuart Nash, has announced a Ministerial inquiry will be held into land use causing woody debris, including forestry slash, and sediment-related damage in Tairāwhiti/Gisborne and Wairoa.

The two-month inquiry will help address the impacts of weather events such as cyclones Hale and Gabrielle and earlier events, the Minister said.

“Woody debris and sediment are particular issues for these communities following storms. More than 10,000 people in Tairāwhiti have petitioned for land use to be better managed. This inquiry is responding to these very real concerns,” he said.

The inquiry will investigate storm damage and its causes, current practices and regulatory and policy settings.

The inquiry panel members are former government minister and Gisborne resident, Hon Hekia Parata (Chair), former regional council chief executive, Bill Bayfield, and forestry engineer, Matthew McCloy.

“The panel’s recommendations, expected by the end of April, will assist local and central government respond to the severe weather events we are experiencing in New Zealand,’’ Environment Minister David Parker said.

The inquiry will investigate past and current land-use practices and the impact of woody debris including forestry slash and sediment on communities, livestock, buildings and the environment. It will also look at associated economic drivers and constraints. 

The panel will make recommendations to improve land use including changes needed to practices and regulation at central and local government levels. This can include consideration of forestry practices, Resource Management Act plans and National Direction. For example, the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry and the Tairāwhiti and Wairoa District Resource Management Plans.

People in affected communities and the wider public will be invited to provide feedback to the panel.

Minister Parker said decisions on prosecutions are a matter for the local councils under the Resource Management Act.

In 2018, the Gisborne District Council showed it was prepared to take action, successfully prosecuting five forestry companies for poor forestry harvesting & management. Judge Dwyer at the time imposed fines ranging from $124,700 to $379,500.

The Government has since moved to increase the maximum available fines for environmental offences and introduce new tools to assist enforcement as part of the resource management reforms now before parliament and due to pass into law before the election.

This will increase the maximum fines from the current $300,000 to $1 million for natural persons and from $600,000 to $10 million for companies. It is also proposed insurance is no longer able to be used to pay infringement or prosecution fines.

Ministerial inquiry into Tairāwhiti/Gisborne and Wairoa land-use | Ministry for the Environment.

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