Forest owners urged to claim for storm damage

20 Sep 2004

Forest owners in the southern North Island who suffered storm and flood-damage in February are urged to apply for government assistance so that repair and replanting can be carried out as soon as possible.

NZFOA chief executive Rob McLagan says forestry was effective in helping to protect most erosion-prone hillsides during the storms. But in areas where rain and wind was most intense, virtually nothing was left standing.

"Landcare mapped close to 50,000 landslides over the whole storm-hit area, from Raetihi down to Kapiti Island, and monitored the sediment swept down the Manawatu River," he says.

"Their analysis showed that very little of the sediment came from native or plantation forest. This confirms previous findings that a canopy of trees reduces slips by up to 90 per cent on steep land."

However, in some of the worst-hit areas, trees were snapped off and blown over by the severe gales. Forest debris mixed with rubble and mud from landslides to destroy tracks and block streams.

"This debris needs to be removed to help prevent flooding in the future. Also, there are broken branches and fallen trees 'hung up' in standing forest which pose a major safety hazard and which must be removed.

"Tracks need to be reinstated and eroded hillsides replanted."

Mr McLagan said the Association welcomed the government decision to provide financial assistance to forest owners whose plantations had suffered damage in what has been described as a 1-in-100 year event. The assistance will help with remedial clean-up work as well as with replanting areas of destroyed forest.

"Our only concern is that assistance is being limited to those who earn 51 per cent or more of their income from forestry and/or other land-based activities.

"A lot of forests are owned by investors who have another primary source of income; these people play an important role in the industry. For many of them, forestry is an important part of their retirement planning.

"I cannot see any logical reason why their losses should not be eligible for the same assistance as everyone else."

Mr McLagan says that despite the intensity of the February storms, most forests escaped major damage. In contrast, there was severe damage to large areas of erosion-prone hills under pasture or scrub.

"The government also has an important role to play in encouraging new plantation forestry as an effective erosion control measure on steep hill country."

Assistance criteria, advice and an application form is available online at: http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/rural-nz/emergency-management/2004-floods/forestry-forms/index.htm

MAF has also appointed a forestry recovery facilitator, Kelly Coghlan, tel 0274 488 067.

For more information, please contact:Rob McLagan, Chief Executive, NZ Forest Owners Association. Tel 04 473 4769 (w) or 04 237 9022 (h). Mobile 0274 421 918