Concern about forestry earthworks

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 14:40 06/12/2012

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The co-owner of a South East Bay holiday home in the outer Pelorus Sound is concerned about a forestry company's resource consent application to do major earthworks on a steep hill above his and five other homes.

Roger Feast, of Wellington, spoke at a hearing for Pelorus Sounds Forestry's application at the Marlborough District Council chambers yesterday morning.

The company has applied for a coastal permit to use an existing barge site in South East Bay as well as the resource consent for earthworks required to get the forestry ready for harvest.

It applied to create up to 14 skid sites, construct about 2km of haul tracks for forestry harvesting, upgrade about 800m of existing road, construct 3.4km of new road, and install a culvert over a stream.

Pelorus Sounds Forestry has cutting rights to 111 hectares of mature radiata pine forest in South East Bay on land owned by Sonyac Enterprises Ltd.

The bay is also a site for other commercial forestry operators, Crown-owned native forest, and six holiday homes.

Mr Feast told the hearing committee of councillors David Dew, Graeme Barsanti and David Oddie, he and two other holiday home owners next to him at the bay were concerned about earthworks which involved "large volumes of uncompacted material", or sediment, in an area that received a lot of rain - about 1750mm per annum, Mr Feast said.

"There's only one way the flows will go, and that's down. We need serious mitigation strategies to protect our personal safety and our properties from damage.

"It's inevitable. We've got a disaster waiting to happen."

Mr Feast wanted to work with Pelorus Sounds Forestry and the council on improving mitigation measures already put forward which included benching skid sites on slopes of more than 20 degrees and ensuring these sites were no larger than 60m by 60m.

Mr Feast said he wasn't against forestry; he wanted to ensure the earthworks would have minimal risk.

"We are not opposed to the forestry operation - we bought the property knowing they [trees] were there to be felled."

Removing the skid site directly above his home on the hillside and reducing two of the proposed skid sites nearby were among his recommendations.

However, Aaron Robinson, of Robinson Forest Management Ltd, said removing the skid site above his home was out of the question as the company would not be able to harvest 20 per cent of its forestry block.

Mr Robinson said submitters had generally been neutral or supportive, but they had raised concerns about land stability and "perceived" danger to properties from falling boulders, debris and general tree felling.

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But the risk to properties was "overstated" and would be mitigated by Pelorus Sounds Forestry, he said.

The council hoped to conduct a site visit and make a decision on whether to issue a resource consent to the company before Christmas.

- The Marlborough Express

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