Cyclone Gabrielle: Tolaga Bay farmer seething over forestry slash floods

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Farmers near Tolaga Bay face forestry slash damage
In Tairāwhiti, farmers near Tolaga Bay faced forestry slash and land damage from winds and heavy rain as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle. Image: Bridget Parker/RNZ News

By Sally Murphy, RNZ News reporter

Widespread damage has hit farms across Aotearoa New Zealand’s North Island with those in parts of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay particularly hard hit and forestry slash is once again a huge problem.

Tolaga Bay farmer Bridget Parker told how forestry slash has caused a huge amount of damage to her farm yet again as the death toll from Cyclone Gabrielle rose to six.

“It’s enormous — there is silt all over the road. It’s so thick you can’t walk through it; there are logs as far as the eye can see,” she said.

“There are so many logs all the fences are down; wherever you look it’s total carnage.”

Parker, whose farm has been destroyed by forestry slash during storms multiple times, said they can look at forecasts for rain, wind, drought and even tides but they could not predict what was going to happen when it came to the logs.

“We don’t farm logs. Their logs [the forestry companies] and their friggin’ silt needs to stay inside their friggin’ estate gates.

“It does not have the right to be spewed over the 3000ha of beautiful land that is farmed on the flats below it.”

Parker said Minister for Forestry Stuart Nash needed to visit the region within the next week to answer to farmers.

“There’s floodwaters everywhere, in our house, in our sheds. It’s far higher than last time and we are really really struggling to cope; we’re really angry.”

Logs brought down onto farmland in Tolaga Bay, Tairāwhiti, as flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle.
Some of the slash on Bridget Parker’s farm in Tolaga Bay. Image: Bridget Parker/RNZ News

Hawke’s Bay area ‘smashed’
Forestry slash has also caused issues on farms in Hawke’s Bay where there was widespread flooding and slips.

Suz Bremner, who runs sheep, beef and friesian bulls along the Taihape Napier Road, said she had never seen damage like it.

“I tipped out the rain gauge this morning. It was overflowing at 170mm so we don’t know how much we’ve had.

“The power is out but from what we are hearing from people nearby is that the wider Hawke’s Bay area has just been smashed.”

Bremner said she went for a drive around her farm yesterday morning to assess the damage but roads were blocked by trees while tracks had been washed away.

“Looking at some of our neighbours who have big cliff faces on their properties the slip damage is horrendous.

“We have a road through the top end of our farm and we turned down there this morning and my husband and I could not believe our eyes. The slash that had washed down through the creeks is unreal; I’ve never seen that before.

“I think the forestry has come down and created a dam and then during the night it’s just exploded and now there’s slash everywhere,” she said.

Other farmers RNZ spoke to in Hawke’s Bay said they were hunkering down waiting for the worst of the weather to pass before getting out to assess the level of damage.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Fallen gum tree behind a 'beware of falling branches sign' in Mārewa, Hawke's Bay.
A fallen gum tree behind a ‘beware of falling branches sign’ in Mārewa, Hawke’s Bay. Image: Paula Thomas/RNZ News
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