Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Questions raised over Gisborne District Council's forestry management in Whareratas

It is well known that the damaged culverts on the NGL were blocked by forestry slash washed off adjoining land and that this slash is repeatedly washed into waterways during flood events in the Gisborne region.

Merv Goodley of Mahia wrote a letter to the Gisborne Herald that is reproduced on the Napier-Gisborne-Railway.co.nz website (NGR Shortline Establishment Group). Like others he has asked sharp questions about the GDC failure to properly monitor and enforce proper land management policies on the likes of Juken Nissho.

In 2014 Kiwirail stated they would take action against a landowner following a washout of track on the Napier line caused by forestry slash washed down into a culvert under the track.

Thirty years ago I moved to Mahia on the corner of Mahanga and Kaiwaitau roads opposite the Kopuawhara Bridge.
Our property is a 16 acre lifestyle block which we have endlessly worked on. We have great neighbours and love the lifestyle.
To watch our neighbours suffer from unbelieveable quantities of pine slash that again came down from Juken NZ Ltd’s Wharerata forestry, and read a comment from Sheldon Drummond that this was “an act of God”, beggars belief.
The huge clean-up bill from the 2002 “act of God” event fell mainly on Wairoa District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council ratepayers, and impacted on the wetlands for years.
The Wairoa council has cleared the Kopuawhara Bridge of slash three times at ratepayer expense.  This time it will require a claw-type digger plus trucks to cart the slash away.  Why should this be at the expense of Wairoa?
Close inspection of this occurrence revealed 95 per cent is pine slash including hundreds of logs three to five metres long, some over 10m and clearly off skid sites with clean saw cuts both ends.
The log jam is 450m in length, 30m wide and 2m deep, Juken NZ has a digger on-site to clean up alongside two other machines, no doubt funded by the regional council.
How much did the regional council spend on the 2002 clean-up?  I believe the Juken NZ contribution was one digger and a few bundles of posts, while the rest was on us ratepayers.
My neighbour is Pah Nui dairy farm, milking 1500 cows.  Regional councils impose rules on dairy farms involving ongoing monitoring and compliance.  Pah Nui spent over $1.5 million in an effluent pond and strict monitoring conditions – fair enough.
Where is the control and monitoring of forestry?
Sheldon, through this column will you tell us the Juken NZ contribution towards the removal of this slash, and the intention for the balance above the bridge waiting to come down in the next flood?
I invite you, your executives, Meng Foon, Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, chief executive Fergus Power and regional council chairman Fenton Wilson to visit the site, meet at our place and see if we can find a solution to an ongoing nightmare and ecological disaster.
My neighbours are third generation farmers.  In time they may be forced from their home for events beyond their control, but well within control of others.
We accept flooding has to be managed in this location.  However, forestry slash is something new and only started to occur since the 1990’s.
What rules are placed on Juken NZ to ensure planting and logging practices do not result in slash spewing into streams and rivers after high rainfall?   What monitoring and compliance is carried out during and after logging forestry to ensure rules are working and being complied with?
To say that slash spewing into our rivers, clogging up waterways and inundating sensitive lagoons and estuaries is “an act of God” is gibberish.

Further damage alleged to Whareratas section of Gisborne Line

An interesting letter was recently published in the Gisborne Herald by one Merv Goodley of Mahia concerning the likelihood of further damage to the rail line between Wairoa and Gisborne. . 

Here are some aerial photos showing some of the damaged areas of the line.

At upper left is the Wharekakaho Stream, a location where a blocked culvert was identified after the March 2012 weather bomb event where floodwaters had partly undercut the embankment, track however was left intact. Further south we can see evidence of significant water flows and erosion of the track sides.

This is the north end of Beach Loop and we can see a lot of erosion around the track both above and below.

This area just south of Beach Loop has been on the move for years but is looking pretty serious at this time.

Just to the north of the demolished Tunnel 24. The tunnel was removed in the mid 1950s because of a landslide in the hill it was driven through.

This photo joins the one above showing significant erosion all along this section of the line.

Undercutting of the embankment at Wharerata Walkway station.

Significant embankment erosion at 349 km. My guess is this is the location referred to where railway wagons were used to reinforce the track which have now collapsed into the river.

Hillside above the track collapsed about 5-6 years ago at this location between Tunnel 16 and Bridge 265. The line was operating at the time and the slip took about a month to clear.

Even in 2011 it was clear there was a slip developing at the north end of the Kopuawhara Viaduct. It has continued to grow since then.

Undercutting of embankment into the river just south of 347 km.

Blacks Beach, the site of the 1957 slip referred to in the letter. The road is being undercut by the sea due to erosion which also threatens the railway alongside.

The significant parts of the letter include the following quotes

I was lucky enough to go into the Kopuawhara headwaters in a four-wheel-drive vehicle from JNL’s Wharerata headquarters, and saw a lot more blowouts that have occurred since the intial damage in March 2012. At one spot, 10 or so years ago, the then rail operator packed one blowout with railway carriages to hold the line in place. Those carriages are now laying some 40 metres below the track in the river bed. I would say to fix the rail line in the Wharerata area alone, for the long term, would cost $60 million to $80m. One area would need a viaduct system to solve the unstable land, two years to complete just fixing the damage. Look at Black’s Beach slip August 12, 1957, 19 bulldozers to clear 87m track one month day and night. Any part of Black’s Beach could slip under the line into the sea as it is so unstable there. The situation is the same at Beach Loop, Paratu, Kopuawhara Valley, Waikokopu. Is it true that the Mohaka Viaduct needs over $2m spent on it for painting alone? Then there are all the other bridges and crossings etc.