Statement from the Eastland Wood Council

09 July 2023

The impact of this year’s storms on the forestry sector across the East Coast (on the back of frequent weather events last year) has been immense, as it has been on our communities and whanau.

It is hard to put a dollar figure on exactly what impact has been felt from specifically the failing infrastructure of our region because there is a range of factors at play. What we know is production forestry harvest volumes across Eastland Port have declined 26% since 2021. This past year we have seen a drop in export volume of 8% which means harvest volumes reduced by 200,000 tonnes.

Logs exported across Eastland the Port – for years ended 30th of June 2023,

  • 2021 3.1 million tonne
  • 2022 2.5 million tonne
  • 2023 2.3 million tonne

The range of factors at play includes;

Inclement weather – harvest crews haven’t seen 3 weeks of uninterrupted work since Cyclone Fili in April 2022.

The frequent weather events have hijacked harvesting operations. The impact is felt right across the supply chain; a significant portion of operating costs are fixed, for example, payments on heavy machinery and staff who are our industry’s most valuable asset.

The frequent weather events have hammered the fragile road network which has required many public roads to be shut down for extended periods of time for repair. As we speak more than 40 roads, and twelve bridges remain closed in Tairāwhiti.

Currently, the majority of crews in the sector across the district have not been operating since 22nd June due to the inability to move the wood to the Port, with the exception of those crews harvesting forestry blocks with direct access to the state highway by private road.

The majority of crews actively harvesting up until the most recent weather event have been working on reduced production volumes due to unfavourable market conditions.

As we speak, harvesting operations are impacted right across the board, because the majority of crews operating are working to a reduced production.

Member forestry companies have reported not less than ten crews are not currently operating due to; public road closures, the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle and/or unfavourable market conditions (currently uneconomic to harvest in some locations).

See the link to GDC Roads

With 95% of logs exported from Tairāwhiti, the forestry sector is more exposed to fluctuations in commodity markets, seasonal fluctuations in demand, inflationary pressures which increase the cost of harvesting and shipping, and even some lingering impacts of covid remain.

This year’s really devastating weather has shown us that we do need to adapt more of our forestry practices and make further changes to ensure the sector is supporting good environmental outcomes for our community while continuing to support the jobs and livelihoods of many hundreds of good people in our region.

The Eastland Wood Council and its members are working closely with Central Government, Gisborne District Council, iwi and mana whenua to provide more detailed feedback informed by modelling as we work through and consider the recommendations made in the Ministerial Land Use inquiry report.

This is about more than just logs. It’s about people too. Those employed from local communities, our contracting workforce, and the local businesses who look after them, and obviously people in the communities. We can’t lose sight of that, while we talk about operations and the future of forestry in Te Tairāwhiti.