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It seems that all those involved in setting standards for the forestry industry, from the companies through to local and national regulators, see the need for changes to address this issue as soon as possible.

The council has a particular interest as the local regulator as well as the owner of a road and bridge network heavily affected by this event inland from Tolaga Bay — a network that, for a variety of reasons, is already struggling to cope with the impacts of a growing forestry harvest.

Yet forestry is also a lifeblood for the region, with one in four households having a member whose job is dependent on the industry. We are hopefully on the cusp of major growth in wood processing here, too, adding more value and employment prospects to the trees that grow so well in this part of the world.

To prosper as a region we need business growth, new income streams and diversity of employment. We continue to be leaders within industries such as sheep and beef farming, along with our horticulture sector. 

As reported in The Gisborne Herald, the aquifer recharge trials are now faced with a new challenge. Until due processes have been run, this important and potentially transformative project for the district economy will see delays, or worse.

Other new and innovative ventures are developing across our region. We have some amazing technology and development taking place, with local businesses exporting their products around the globe.

My concern is how do we best move forward with such a mix of diverse industry needs, and be sure that we are protecting our environment for now and future generations.

What type of trees should we be planting on what sort of land? Do we plant natives in permanent blocks around the edges of forestry that is near waterways and gullies? Do forestry harvesting crews need to start chipping unwanted wood?

Many commentators are pushing for an end to plantation forestry on the steeper erosion-prone land that is now planted in pine trees.

Reversion to native forests or manuka blocks in these areas has the potential for solid investment returns via carbon credits — if the government gets the market structure right in the Emissions Trading Scheme — as well as manuka honey products.

As a region, we cannot simply just carry on. We are obligated to make significant and much longer-term decisions for the betterment of our region. 

We are faced with substantial and unprecedented environmental issues. Simply put, many things must change. 

For our community leaders involved in making major decisions around environmental protection, sustainable forestry, our transport network and all water issues, the impacts now are at the extreme end for us as a region.  

Forget 10-year (LTP) long-term planning — for a city and district with the challenges we face, I believe this is short-term planning. We need visionary thinking and foresight to consider a 50 to 100-year plan for Tairawhiti.

What will our region look like in 50 years? How many people will live here? What will local industry look like?​

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Posted: Tuesday 3 July 2018