Update from one of our members: Aratu Forests

Forestry industry bolsters support for debris clean up in Tairāwhiti

18 FEBRUARY 2023

Aratu Forests, alongside other forestry industry partners, is deploying machinery and people to Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, to assist with the ongoing clean-up of woody debris following ex-tropical Cyclone Hale.

Aratu Forests currently has three excavators, support vehicles and 25 staff on the ground helping to clean up after the weather event that began on 11 January.

Along with other industry partners, we are surveying the impacts of the storm and supporting the community near one of the 17 forests we manage, Te Marunga Forest, which we believe was the source of some debris.

Chief Executive Officer of Aratu Forests, Neil Woods, says they are continuing to work alongside the community, neighbours and Gisborne District Council.
“We are first and foremost committed to removing the debris that has mobilised against Mangatokerau Bridge and Tolaga Bay beach.

“After nearly a week of engaging with the Tairāwhiti community, we have seen the impacts the weather has had on their lives once again. We are feeling deeply for them, particularly with more wet weather forecast in the coming days.”

Initial assessments of the aftermath of ex-tropical Cyclone Hale indicate the movement of debris through the Mangatokerau Gorge is primarily a result of legacy management issues prior to 2018. At the time, a concentration of harvesting in one forest catchment and lower infrastructure build standards common at the time was undertaken by the former owners of Aratu Forests and approved by regulators.

Neil Woods says investigations are continuing, but from this storm and other recent storms during 2021 and 2022, signs are showing that improved infrastructure construction and other changes to management practice are building resilience.

In addition to this, Aratu Forests has dramatically changed its practices to mitigate the risk of debris flow since June 2018. This includes increased road drainage structures and road stabilisation to reduce the likelihood of slips, increased streamside buffers and re-vegetation with native species to permanently protect waterways, and more.

“We have noticed this is having an impact across the forests we manage, but our work is far from done. We have already reached out to the local and central government to discuss how we can continuously improve our operations,” Neil says.

“Aratu Forests are committed to completing the clean-up of debris from this storm event and continuing to improve the sustainability of our operations to meet the community’s expectations.”