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Poor forestry regulations will not protect our soils or rivers

Weak forestry regulations proposed by the National Government will do little to prevent forests being planted on steep, erosion-prone country, or avoid forestry debris harming streams, the Green Party said today.

The comments come on the back of news that Northland’s Mangakahia River has been clogged with forestry debris from plantation forests in the catchment.

“With heavy rain from more intense storm events as a result of climate change, care and thought around plantation forests is important to protect our rivers, soils and the ecosystems that depend on them,” said Green Party forestry spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Government’s failure to develop strong regulations for forestry means our soils and rivers are left vulnerable to forestry debris, mud slides and sediment. It exposes people downstream to these risks, as is happening in the Mangakahia and as has happened to Marlborough’s Rai Valley and in Gisborne.

“After nearly nine years in office there is still no National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry and the Government’s proposed standards are too weak.  

“The Ministry of Primary Industries received more than 18,700 submissions on the Government’s proposed national standards for plantation forestry in mid 2015. Submitters were critical of the Government’s reliance on industry codes of practice to manage sediment; the standards permissive approach, the lack of consistent technical guidance on erosion and sediment controls; and the weak riparian protection provisions.

“Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy needs to listen to public and community concerns about the impacts of poor forestry plantings and plantation management on our steep lands, soils, aquatic habitats and rivers. His proposed national standards need a major overhaul to stop forestry debris and sediment from poorly sited and managed plantation forests winding up in our rivers, destroying stream habitat and affecting downstream landholders.

“With heavy rain from more intense storm events as a result of climate change, we need more care and thought around plantation forest establishment and management to protect soils, rivers and landholders downstream.

“Plantation forestry has an important role in providing jobs, wood for manufactured products and in reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions. The Green Party in government would ensure we have robust and effective regulations to improve industry performance and catchment management,” said Ms Sage.

The Green Party’s Swimmable Rivers campaign will be touring the Wairua River in Northland on Thursday 28 April. A public meeting will be held at OneOneSix Community Centre, 116 Bank Street, Whangarei, starting at 7pm. For more information, see rivers.greens.org.nz