Environment Waikato has renewed resource consents to continue harvesting plantation forest, and construct roading and minor stream crossings within Whangapoua Forest.
The application, from forestry company Ernslaw One, attracted 39 submissions from a variety of organisations and individuals. The maximum term of 35 years was sought for stream culverts and 20 years for harvesting - long enough to complete all or most of the first rotation harvesting - and 10 years for earthworks.
The consent covers the whole of Whangapoua Forest between Coromandel and Whitianga, which drains to Whangapoua Harbour, Manaia, Coromandel and Whitianga Harbours and the Pacific Ocean. Several submitters suggested that the proposals were inconsistent with the provisions of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act but the Commissioners dismissed this.
The Commissioners considered the effects of roading and earthworks, culverts and plantation forest harvesting on slope stability, indigenous vegetation, riparian and in-stream values, wetlands, indigenous fauna species, wildlife corridors, flooding, archaeological sites, harbour receiving environments and pest control.
They added a condition sought by Whangapoua Ratepayer’s Association for inspections after major storm events to ensure that blocked culverts were cleared before they blew out.
The company intends to construct two to six new minor stream crossings a year, and repair existing culverts. Around 300 ha of mature pines are harvested each year and the company only required consent for 35 percent of the forest’s productive area, but had applied for consents for its entire forested area.
The Commissioners said the Whangapoua Forest area was susceptible to soil erosion and there was a two to six year period where there was a risk of increased slope instability as the roots of mature trees effectively bound the soil together. They rejected a condition sought by the Whangapoua Environmental Protection Society to tighten the catchment cutting constraint to be no more than 25 percent of the pine forest within a catchment being harvested within a rolling eight year period.
The pine forest did not meet Environment Waikato’s definition of significant indigenous vegetation, even though native plants may grow underneath. The potential loss of around 35 ha of many small areas of indigenous vegetation individually less than a hectare was not a significant adverse effect warranting further mitigation, the Commissioners said.
Forest streams were significant habitats for native fish species such as eels, banded kokopu, koura and bullies. Forestry clearing had an adverse effect on aquatic habitats and there should be no dragging of felled logs across streams draining catchments larger than 50 ha.
Wilding pines should be controlled in the riparian buffers, and some form of indigenous species protection would ideally be done through conditions, such as relocating any threatened indigenous fauna, or controls on the use of hunting dogs to protect kiwi, but the Commissioners said they did not have the power to impose them.
They required a substantial network of riparian strips and buffers on all perennial streams within the plantation forest area, but did not impose wildlife corridors. Effects of roading, earthworks, culverting and plantation forestry harvesting activities on the environment would be minor, and where they couldn’t be adequately avoided would be appropriately mitigated.
Monitoring would assess effects of the activities on the environment over time, they said.