16 May 2018

Company to pay $60,000 after damage to family's house

11:45 am on 16 May 2018

A forest management company has been ordered to pay almost $60,000 after its practices led to flooding and damage to a property in Marlborough in November 2016.

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Photo: Marlborough District Council

Heavy rain blocked a stream and a build-up of logs, which should have been cleared, was pushed towards a nearby property occupied by a family of two adults and four young children. The family woke to the deluge rushing past their house and had to be evacuated by helicopter.

The New Zealand management division of American-owned forestry management company, Merrill and Ring has been fined $39,000 and ordered to pay $20,000 in reparations in the Blenheim District Court.

The company had earlier admitted charges laid under the Resource Management Act.

The Marlborough District Council prosecuted the company for what it said was its failure to abide by its consent, and ensure forestry debris and logs were cleared from a stream in the forestry block it managed.

The company managed a 230 hectare forestry block in the Waikakaho Valley, which they commercially harvested during October 2013 and January 2014.

The council said its resource consent for this operation contained clear conditions related to forestry debris in the nearby streambed.

The council said Merrill and Ring failed to ensure the streambed was left free of logs and other forestry related waste after harvesting, despite being instructed to do this.

In November 2016, during a period of heavy rain, the stream running through the forestry block flooded and subsequently burst its banks.

The build-up of forestry debris and logs in the streambed from the commercial forestry operation substantially contributed to this occurring.

When the stream burst its banks, the water was pushed towards the nearby property which suffered significant damage, and from where the family was airlifted.

The council's compliance manager Gina Ferguson hoped the convictions would send a message to others in the forestry industry.

She said the council did not take the decision to prosecute lightly, but when the offending was serious enough it had a duty to act.