Marlborough forests patrolled by compliance drones

18 October 2015

Marlborough District Council environmental protection officers have started using drone technology to monitor compliance on forestry blocks. They are trialling the use of a harbour drone to capture aerial video and still footage of forestry blocks on angles not possible by foot.

Forestry blocks in Northbank, Port Underwood, Rai Valley and the Marlborough Sounds were monitored during harvesting, to see if contractors were complying with their resource consents.
A report to the council's environment committee revealed 156 skid site inspections in the past year, of which two were non-compliant and 30 required further action. Twenty-four forestry blocks were also checked, with only 10 passing first time and not needing further action.

Council environmental protection officer Mark Spencer said good practices were observed, such as the greater use of flumes, narrow artificial channels that take water away and cut the chance of erosion. Also grass seed dispersed around skid sites protected the soil from surface runoff, Spencer said. Poor practices included debris and fill being left in gullies and waterways. An abatement notice and five infringement notices were handed out during the past 12 months.

The council was hoping to increase first time compliance from 41 per cent to 75 per cent and upping skid site compliance from 79 per cent to 90 per cent.

"Although significant improvements have been witnessed in some areas, the compliance group considers the forest managers and owners still need to be more familiar with the permitted activities standards and resource consent conditions for the disturbance of land associated with forest harvesting."

The monitored forestry blocks covered 10,051 hectares, and represented 13 per cent of planted forests in Marlborough. 

Spencer said it was a "no brainer" that good practices would have a significant impact on reducing soil loss and sedimentation in waterways.

Marlborough Forestry Industry Association executive officer Vern Harris said the figures showed there was more work to be done. "There will be incremental improvements, it won't just be a big bang. Overall the industry is consistently trying to improve. From time to time events conspire against us that we have no control over such as a heavy rainfall event."

Story by Heather Simpson, The Marlborough Express, to read the full story >>