Judge slams council for lack of monitoring

Wednesday 18 Dec 2019

A council's failure to monitor a forestry company has been labelled by a judge as "reprehensible and irresponsible, to say the least" - Environment Court Judge Brian Dwyer made the remark about Gisborne District Council when sentencing Juken New Zealand to a $152,000 fine.

Juken was one of 10 forestry companies prosecuted by the council over damage caused by "slash" - forestry debris - in storms that hit the region in June last year.

Juken pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching the Resource Management Act by discharging a contaminant (slash logging debris, waste logging material and sediment) onto land between June 3 and June 12, where it may enter water.

The offending occurred on the 1096ha Waituna Forest pine plantation, about 30 kilometres southwest of Gisborne, and resulted in debris entering various "protected watercourses" and tributaries of the Mangapoike River, which enters the Wairoa River.

Following the heavy rainfall events on June 3-4 and June 11-12 Juken reported slip damage to the forest and a neighbouring property to the council on June 25.

Council investigators found a raft of breaches of consent conditions, including piles of slash piled in precarious positions, and said the ecological impact on waterways was "extensive" and "severe". The council issued an abatement notice and Juken largely complied with it by carrying out extensive remedial work.

When sentencing Juken in Gisborne District Court last month, Judge Dwyer noted that sediment discharges like those involved here "will make a real but undefinable contribution to the levels of contaminant in the rivers and the sea where it ultimately ends up".

He said the Gisborne region had experienced six major storm and extreme weather events between 1994 and 2015 and the potential for large amounts of slash and sediment to be mobilised and washed downstream "should have been obvious".

Juken failed to comply with Forestry Owners Association Code of Practice as well as its resource consent.

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Photo credit: Maarten Holl/Stuff
Source: Stuff

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