Wairarapa Times-Age, ‘Forestry in Wairarapa’ feature, 15 February 2023.

Forecast to be one of the most serious storms to hit New Zealand this century, Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle has made landfall and many North Island regions are under a National State of Emergency.

Forest Enterprises’ forests in Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne all came through the storms of the New Year largely intact. But as with Cyclone Hale, we’re vigilant in our response to Gabrielle which, at the time of writing, is impacting Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.

Wairarapa’s eastern hill country bore the brunt of January’s significant storm, with the Ngahape valley being most effected. The forests we manage were reasonably damage free. We paused harvest operations for a few days to work with contractors to repair roads and access and help with clean-up and recovery. The storm did not interrupt our silviculture programme.

Harvest was halted in our Gisborne forests for a week during January’s State of Emergency. Our harvest contractors were temporarily redeployed to assist the local council clear public roads.

We have not contributed woody debris or sedimentation onto our neighbours’ properties except at the levels we’d normally see after adverse weather. This outcome is largely due to the locations of our forests, the geology of the sites, and the significant investment we’ve made into best practise.

We remain humble in these situations, as geology and rainfall are only manageable at the margins. What we can manage is the standard of planning and works under our control. After the new year storms, we only incurred normal damage, and with that, normal cost to restore affected features.

Some properties in the north, especially Auckland, have been very hard hit. Sometimes this is pure chance and sometimes, in hindsight, improvements need to be made to standards and practises.

An enquiry into land use, especially in Te Tairāwhiti, is certain to go ahead. We hope it will be scientific and rigorous. A large proportion of our Gisborne forests are on Red Zone land, but we are not seeing the mass slope failures, and associated slash migration reported north of Tolaga Bay, where soil types are more fragile.

Nevertheless, it’s likely that certain geologies are not suitable for any productive land use, be it farming, forestry or horticulture. Similarly, certain locations are not safe to construct homes, roads or rail networks.

Photo: Storms can bring risk of windthrow as well as slippage and floodwater.