Hapū question 'toothless' forestry standards

7:29 pm on 11 August 2015

East Coast hapū say they could challenge proposed national standards for forestry in the Waitangi Tribunal if the Government pushes ahead with them.

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Photo: 123rf

The Hikurangi Takiwa Trust and Te Papatipu o Uepohatu Trust, which represent the hapū groups, said they were already facing an environmental catastrophe from erosion and the new standards could be devastating for the district.

The groups, which have kaitiaki responsibilities for more than 60,000 hectares of land on the East Coast, said the proposed national standards were toothless.

Te Papatipu o Uepohatu Trust chair Tui Warmenhoven said forestry in their region needed more stringent monitoring because it was suffering from "world class" erosion problems following the clear-felling of 80 percent of the native forests 130 years ago.

"What the settlers of that time didn't realise was that we had very soft rock and very heavy rainfall, so there's certain times of the year where the rain is so heavy the soil just moves.

"Once those trees were gone, the soil quality was lost, everything has moved, and it is still moving - we're basically a moving catchment."

Ms Warmenhoven said the East Coast's problems were unique, and harvesting of replanted forests in the region must go through a resource consent process.

"Much of the forest that has been planted in our region has been planted for erosion treatment, so you don't want to come to a harvest period and then just throw out 30 years of erosion treatment out the door just because people are allowed to go ahead and harvest willy-nilly."

The Gisborne District Council is also taking a stand against the new national standards, and said it shared the concerns of Māori submitters.

The council's science manager, Lois Easton, said it was already having difficulty managing the environmental effects of forestry through the resource consent process, but under the new standards its ability to manage them would disappear.

"When we get harvest happening, then we get this massive dump of sediment into the rivers, and also we get a lot of debris mobilised, and because we have very heavy rain events there as well, that can have quite extreme impacts on the environment and also on landowners downstream and communities."

Ms Warmenhoven said the proposed standards put them in peril and if they were introduced hapū could lodge a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal.

She said, as part of Ngati Porou's treaty settlement, the Crown committed to addressing the state of the land, waterways, and people of the Waiapu catchment, where much of the land is under Māori title.

"So the commitment has become a commitment for 100 years of restoration of the Waiapu catchment

"Now - how can we genuinely walk that 100-year road when we are creating a national environmental standard which basically throws all that acknowledgement, all that headway that we've made out the door?"

In a written statement, Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew said much of the land the trusts were concerned about was zoned as high risk or very high risk, under the new standard's erosion susceptibility classification.

'For areas of very high risk, resource consent is automatically required and the council will be able to place site-specific conditions on the management of the activity.

"For high risk areas, stringent conditions will be imposed on foresters working without a resource consent.

"We recognise that some land which is classified as having a high risk of erosion may need to be under tighter control. The Ministry for Primary Industries is currently working through how additional control could be applied."

In a written response, Treaty Settlements Minister Chris Finlayson said the agreement on erosion control in the Waiapu Catchment was developed as part of the Crown's treaty settlement with Ngāti Porou, signed in 2010.

He went on to say: 'The Crown is committed to ensuring the durability of treaty settlements.

"Submissions on the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry closed today and it would be premature to make any comment on the outcome while the submissions are being considered."