Forestry sediment is destroying the Maitai River according to Friends of the Maitai. Photo: Supplied.

Changes to forestry needed to ‘save’ Maitai River

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Friends of the Maitai is calling on Nelson City Council to take action on forestry practice.

The aftermath of Cyclone Gita has bought forestry into the spotlight, after slash and silt devastated Marahau, Riwaka and the Motueka Valley.

Friends of the Maitai spokesperson Tom Kennedy said the Maitai was also affected by sediment from forestry.  The group was supportive of the work done by council under its Project Maitai-Mahitahi, but Tom says significant action needed to be taken on forestry.

“We have been pleased to work alongside council on issues such as water-testing, community education and planting days.

“However, we’ve struck a block in getting any positive changes to forestry practice which is the real source of the sediment in the river. Until that is addressed there will be no improvement in the water quality, the recurrence of toxic algae and the threat to bio-diversity,” he says.

Tom says research by Cawthron and NIWA backs the groups view that there will be no significant improvement in water quality until forestry companies reduce the sediment coming from cut-over areas.

“The forestry sector needs to reduce the size of clear felled areas, do more riparian planting, particularly in smaller streams and gullies, and diversify away from mono-culture Pinus radiata.

“We’ve had meetings with forestry companies, but realistically these steps won’t happen without action from council.”

Nelson City Council environmental management group manager Clare Barton says that NCC is exploring options to deliver biodiversity and water quality gains and provide controls for sediment sources in both urban and rural settings.

New environmental standards from Ministry of Primary Industries, which come into effect on May 1, provide a single set of regulations that apply to foresters throughout New Zealand

“As a forestry owner, council is incorporating the new standards into its management processes, including retiring some blocks where appropriate.

“Council has a role to enforce these new standards, and we will be working with the industry to help it manage operations in line with the new requirements. Council’s compliance team actively investigates issues, including those associated with forestry, and takes action where appropriate.”

Clare also says that NCC has expanded its commitment to water quality over the last three years and is proposing further investment in this area through the draft Long Term Plan.