Pressure is mounting for a Government inquiry into forestry slash in Hawke’s Bay.
An investigation into land use in Tairāwhiti is already underway after forestry slash there caused billions of dollars of damage.
But Hawke’s Bay farmers want it extended to include their region as well.
Tutira farmer Tony Scott’s entire property is now covered in forestry slash.
“It was immaculate with a lovely garden. All the birds have gone now, they’ve taken off.”
The land was given to him by his father, but is now uninhabitable because of the flooding and slash damage.
“It’s ruined it… No way feel safe living here again, the damage is done,” Scott said.
He blames the forest owner upstream for not cleaning up their debris after harvesting. The debris dammed the creek in his property, which then overflowed and sent a raging river of logs into his house. Scott says it nearly killed him and his wife, who left in the nick of time.
“We would have been a statistic. I wouldn’t be here telling you the story.”
An inquiry into forestry slash is underway for Tairāwhiti, but Hawke’s Bay farmers are baffled as to why it doesn’t include them.
Tutira farmers Barney and Gaynor Chrystall have lived there for decades and say there’s been a massive increase in forestry – which they believe is to blame for the multiple destroyed bridges.
“I want Hawke’s Bay to be part of the inquiry,” Barney told Newshub.
So does Federated Farmers, because even though there’s damage to farmland and forestry land, the impact of pine tree slash on Hawke’s Bay’s rivers, roads, bridges and properties is undeniable.
“It is ruining our country, utterly ruining our country,” Barney said.
The Forestry Owners Association disagrees. Its president, Grant Dodson, said improvements have been made over the years.
“There has been a lot of change but clearly it hasn’t been enough to solve the problem. But there is also quite a lot of legacy slash coming down as well from previous harvesting practices.”
Barney is fed up and wants forestry companies to clean up after themselves.
“The slash they leave is an utter joke. They have known about this, and it’s gone on for so long, they’ve done absolutely nothing about it.”
Dodson said the scale of damage from slash has been shocking.
“The forest industry is absolutely aghast at what’s happened. None of these forestry companies want their soil, their trees or their waste wood getting off-site and impacting their communities.”
He backs the idea of an inquiry for the region, if it is warranted.
But the Government doesn’t. Forestry Minister Stuart Nash said there will be a review, but the Tairāwhiti inquiry won’t be widened to include Hawke’s Bay.
“The wider we make this, if we were to include the impacts of Gabrielle in Hawke’s Bay, then I suspect you are looking at another two or three months on this.”
The impacts are also evident from the air, where you see the coastline carpeted in wood and debris is piled up in estuaries.
A mess that locals say was avoidable.
“Why should the Government, us taxpayers pay to clean up their mess when most of it foreign-owned,” Barney said.
They’re calling for the minister to survey the damage from slash in Hawke’s Bay and do something about it.
Scott said dairy farmers would never be allowed to dump effluent in the waterways, so forestry companies shouldn’t be allowed to leave slash where it washes into rivers.
“They’ve got to protect waterways, that’s what our Government’s all about. Got to do it.”
Scott, along with many others, want forestry operators to clean up after themselves – just as other businesses are required to.