Permanent Pine Problems and other resources added to Mana Taiao website
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti has added a set of new resources to our website today. New sections include a section called “Recloaking Papatūānuku: Exotic Exploitation or Indigenous Innovation“; an overview of issues with the proposal to include pine and other exotic species in the Permanent Forests category of the ETS; a summary of considerations for planning a Just Transition for Tairāwhiti; and an exploration of options to finance the enhancement of biodiversity.
Check them out and let us know if there are related topics you’d like more information and resources about.
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti welcomes Inquiry report
Organisers of a petition that led to a Ministerial Inquiry into land use in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa have welcomed the release of the report with findings and unconditionally support two thirds of the report recommendations.
Spokesperson Hera Ngata-Gibson said the group of residents are pleased to have the Inquiry completed and for many of the local concerns and regional risks to get greater scrutiny and attention.
“It is good to see the Panel agreed with nearly all of the recommendations in our submission and we appreciate it was a massive task that was under-resourced and too short a timeframe to do justice to the complexities of the issues at stake.”
“The report confirms the forestry industry has lost its social licence and while there are some good recommendations, the devil will be in the detail of how they are interpreted. If there is not enough action taken to significantly reduce the footprint of pine plantations and pasture on erosion-prone land in the region, then we can expect to see more action than just petitions into the future. If politicians, officials and industry will not stop unsustainable practices, then they should expect the citizenry will, by any means necessary.”
“It is unfortunate the report seems to have been used in some parts as a way for some groups to attack Gisborne District Council about issues well outside the scope of the Inquiry Terms of Reference” said Ms Ngata-Gibson.
“Furthermore, members of our group have raised concerns and described parts of the report as an attempted grab for control. GDC do need their feet held to fire, but there are recommendations in the report that potentially give huge favour and power to select groups and individuals appointed by the Government. We don’t think that’s a good way forward. We would only support full participatory processes.”
“The report seems to overlook the land use of pastoral farming almost entirely, that was supposed to be half the focus of the Inquiry given pasture makes up more than half of land use in the region and is a major contributor to sediment and erosion. Likewise, there is no explicit reference to the impacts of deer, goats, pigs and possums on erosion and future native forests. It’s like they have sidestepped that issue completely.”
“What we are excited about is the focus on a Just Transition to create truly sustainable industries and employment based on a diverse bioeconomy in the region. We are also happy that East Coast Exchange and other market opportunities for biodiversity and regenerative agriculture have been included for support. We agree with the need for an urgent review of the ETS rules incentivising permanent pine plantations and acknowledgement that no science exists to prove pine can transition successfully to indigenous forest.
Line by line initial responses to each recommendation:
Tairāwhiti forestry concerns taken to UN
Early this morning (NZ Time) Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti representative Renee Raroa presented the group’s concerns at a meeting of the United Nations in New York.
Speaking at the 22nd Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Ms Raroa, who grew up in Rangitukia, addressed the forum with an overview of the history of land use in Tairāwhiti:
“In recent years, our territories have been repeatedly devastated by cyclones and floods, choking our waterways and coastlines with thick sediment and woody debris from clearfell plantation harvests. Over a century of deforestation has degraded our land, river, and marine systems; caused irreversible landscape changes, interrupted our climate cycles, and destabilised the balance between Ranginui, our sacred Sky father, and Papatūāku, Earth Mother.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, the colonial establishment, the Crown, aggressively promoted conversion of land to exotic pine with promises of economic prosperity, passive income, sustained employment, and erosion prevention, none of which has come to bear. Only now, at the end of the first harvest cycle, is the undisclosed harm of this industry becoming clear. Communities are contractually locked into intergenerational commitments that will continue this forced destruction. The costs, to our landowners, of withdrawing from these contracts are simply unattainable.”
The three minute speech went on to criticise the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme:
“Over the past three decades, pine plantations have rapidly increased in our territories for failed erosion prevention projects, timber and carbon credits. The New Zealand carbon credit system privileges exotic pine over native species, and pine is promoted by Crown scientists as a climate and erosion solution. The only acceptable solution is an immediate moratorium on clear-felling and the restoration of biodiverse native cover. We emphatically oppose carbon credits from pine as a climate solution.
The pine industry, in conjunction with the New Zealand Crown government, is jointly responsible for multiple Indigenous rights violations, culminating in loss of life, forced displacement, and broad ecocide, aquacide and cultural genocide.”
Ms Raroa concluded her time by requesting an investigation into the situation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment. Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti requested an independent investigation by the UN to report on the harm caused by the pine industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The speech encouraged all member states to “centre the rights and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous ecosystems, lands, and waters as the only true and just pathway to climate stability. In this there is hope for all.”
Phone/Txt Renee in New York: +64 21 041 6856
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti submission to Inquiry calls for an end to clear-fell harvesting
A submission to the Ministerial Inquiry on Land Use in Tairāwhiti by residents group Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti is calling for an end to the forestry practice of clear-fell harvesting on erosion-prone land in the region.
The submission reviewed more than 150 scientific publications and public policy documents using an army of over 100 volunteer researchers from around the region and around the world.
“We had some amazing talent supporting our effort to undertake a systematic review of all the research studies and official reports on the issues associated with land use in Tairāwhiti” said submission organiser Manu Caddie. “Researchers from the London School of Economics and Cambridge University joined our own experts like Dr Wayne Ngata and Dame Professor Anne Salmond along with dozens of lay people who wanted to help the mammoth effort to understand what the science, community and land itself have been saying over the last 60 years.”
Mr Caddie estimated more than a thousand hours had gone into the project.
“The evidence was overwhelming and has been sitting there in very detailed, very stark warnings for many, many years” said Mr Caddie.
“While we expect the forestry industry to claim it would spell the collapse of the regional economy, the reality is we are facing economic carnage caused to almost every other industry in the region as a result of the practice. And these are costs the forestry industry seems intent on been passed on to ratepayers and taxpayers. With climate change, that will keep on happening, and is likely to get worse – the viability of human habitation in the region is under threat because we haven’t retired enough land – both farms and pine plantations to permanent native forest.”
One of the publications that touched Mr Caddie most deeply during the research for the submission was a quote from his neighbour growing up in Tauranga. Basil Graeme was the North Island Conservation Officer for Forest & Bird, and after Cyclone Bola in 1990 he wrote an article about the East Coast region for the organisation’s magazine. Mr Caddie says that now reads like a prophecy for the region:
“There is a role for commercial forestry, enhancing the regional economic base, and for catchment management on the better hills close to the plains. However the most cost-effective catchment protection for a huge area between these different plantation types is to allow the bush to return. All this land needs is retirement and pest control; nature will do the rest. It is here in the naturally revegetating lands that conservationists can enhance the process with judicious planting of seed source trees that are regionally scarce. The manuka and scrub species are already there, in pockets and gullies, waiting to do their job.
If it is appropriate for this region to return to subsidised pseudo-commercial forestry, then it is essential to first zone land suitable for commercial forestry and zone out with a green line those lands requiring permanent tree cover. We have enough to pay for without replacing one cycle of inappropriate land use with another.
The nation does owe a debt to the East Cape. We have had 100 years of wrenching export earnings from these hills. We will all have to pay if the category 3 lands are to be purchased, replanted and retired. We will all have to pay if most of the category 2 lands are to be purchased and retired. Anything less than this commitment to a “green line” is a decision to let the region die.”
The submission by Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti aligns closely with this vision for the region. It calls on regulators to not only stop clear-fell harvesting on erosion-prone land, but to prohibit the planting of any more pine trees on the most erosion-prone areas (zoned Red and Orange). Instead the group cites numerous scientific reports by government and private researchers who recommend the regeneration of a diverse native canopy.
“There is some excellent science coming from this region that has been either totally ignored or dismissed by successive generations of policy makers in our region and at a national level,” said Mr Caddie. “They were captured by the industry PR machine that claimed pines were the best option for the people and the problem of erosion. The science has been very clear that this is not the case.”
The submission calls on the Government to overhaul the Emissions Trading Scheme by decoupling forestry carbon credits from the market available to emitters, it also highlights major failings in the National Environmental Standards for Plantations Forests (NES-PF), the national rulebook for plantation forests that Gisborne District Council has opposed since it was introduced in 2010, and it calls for catchment communities to lead the development of a Just Transition Plan for the region to support displaced workers and businesses as erosion-prone pine plantations and farm land are retired.
“We use the example of the State of Victoria in Australia where the native timber industry has been phased out and the state government has provided $200m to support affected communities with the transition to more sustainable industries. We expect something similar needs to happen here – half of it could go to retraining and redeploying forestry and farm workers, the other half as co-investment in new industries and businesses within the region.”
Mr Caddie said the Government had supported other regions like Taranaki and Southland to transition away from unsustainable industries and the same now needed to happen here.
The submission is accompanied by five papers provided to Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti by subject matter experts covering: changes required to the ETS; problems with the NES-PF; options for financing biodiversity restoration; climate change and forestry in Tairāwhiti; and a technical assessment of the role forestry plantings had in the failure of the Mangahauini Gorge during Cyclone Gabrielle.
The 28 page submission along with a 58 page summary of evidence across the themes of the Inquiry, the database of reviewed publications and the five expert’s papers are available from the Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti website: http://www.manataiao.org along with an interactive map of residents’ testimonies and images of land use impacts in their communities.
The group has offered to present a summary of the findings from the research to Gisborne District Council, plans to maintain and update the online knowledge hub and hopes the resources compiled will be used by schools, regulators, industry and researchers into the future.
- MTT Submission
- Thematic Summaries of Evidence
- Searchable database of publications reviewed
- Expert papers:
- Dr Christina Hood – The NZ Emissions Trading Scheme in relation to afforestation in Tairāwhiti – key changes proposed
- Will Tate-Jamieson – A history of the development of the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forests: problems and opportunities
- Dr Shaun Awatere, Dr Nathanael Melia, Dr Greg Bodeker,Suzanne Lambie – Climate Change and Land Use in Tairāwhiti
- Dr David Hall – financing biodiversity restoration
- Don Miller – Analysis of factors likely contributing to Mangahauini Gorge slip
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti joins legal action on forestry rules
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti has joined Environmental Defence Society legal proceedings in the Environment Court that will challenge the legality of the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forests.
The submission to the Environment Court lodged on Friday notes that “much of the land planted and harvested for commercial forestry and of concern to MTT, is “orange” or “red” under the NES-PF. The NES-PF is therefore of acute interest to MTT in its quest for a sustainable land use future for the Tairāwhiti region, which includes regulatory settings that protect whānau, moana, awa and whenua.”
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti is interested in the following particular issues: The NES-PF is in breach of (and otherwise unlawful under) the RMA by permitting harvesting and ancillary activities in areas that are inappropriate (for example, orange zones), thereby allowing activities that have significant environmental and cultural impact to occur as of right; The NES-PF’s reliance upon the Erosion Susceptibility Calculator to determine activity status is also in breach of the RMA because it is a flawed means of predicting the future environmental and cultural impact of activities.
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti says it supports the proceedings because commercial forestry practices have and continue to wreak devastation upon the Tairāwhiti region.
“National regulation, such as that contained in the NES-PF, should be competent in protecting [Tangata Whenua], their moana, their awa and their whenua.”
Just over two months ago the Environment Court sentenced the fifth of five forestry companies prosecuted by the Gisborne District Council in relation to a 2018 storm event in the Tairawhiti region. The Court said:
“All of these facts are well known. Foresters undertaking harvesting operations under these circumstances are vulnerable to a high degree of foreseeable risk. That risk came to fruition for Ernslaw and various other foresters as a result of the Queen’s Birthday 2018 storms.
It must be recognised that this situation cannot be repeated. The forest industry is a major player in the New Zealand economy in general and Gisborne in particular. It is unsatisfactory that the industry is vulnerable to the real risk of criminal prosecution when undertaking the planned harvesting of commercial forests which were ironically (in many cases) planted for land stabilisation purposes.”
As events transpired, it has been repeated – more than once and on a more severe scale.
Mana Taiao crowdsourcing evidence research for Inquiry
Land Use Inquiry instigators Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti are moving at pace to prepare evidence for the panel appointed by the Government to look into a broad range of issues.
“Everyone acknowledges it’s a ridiculously short timeframe for such complex and wide ranging issues” said MTT coordinator Hera Ngata-Gibson, “but we have a strategy to present the facts to the panel and the public.”
That strategy includes recruiting a small army of volunteer researchers to quickly work through over 300 relevant research reports, book chapters, policy statements and meeting minutes produced in the last 50 years.
“We have set up a form for people willing and able to read through one or two documents, summarise the contents and feed it into our database of evidence that will shape a submission we will make available for others to support or use themselves” said Ms Ngata-Gibson. “Crowdsourcing the evidence is the only way for us as a voluntary group to have a show of covering the breadth of concerns, challenges and better alternatives that need to be put to the Inquiry.”
“It’s the worst possible time given our communities are still in crisis following the devastating floods over the last couple of months, but it is the hand we’ve been dealt and we will make the most of it.”
MTT has been offered support for the exercise from researchers around the country at Crown Research Institutes, universities and private companies.
“Some have commented that the scope of the Inquiry would need a team of researchers working for many years to compile the available evidence, unfortunately we only have a fortnight before we need to be collating our submission and sharing it with supporters and the panel as they want to close feedback by the end of March to provide enough time to write their report.”
Form for volunteer researchers: https://forms.gle/9roZCEECywMdHhDq7
Mana Taiao – T-Shirts, Stickers & Billboards
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti has produced t-shirts, bumper stickers and billboards for supporters keen to promote the message…
Save our Moana, Awa, Whenua T-shirts. $35 each Kermit green or Khaki green. Once we have 20 orders and money in, the Ts printing will be put through for processing.
Bumper stickers: $5 /
Putea can be made to Rawinia here: Tihei 503 Ltd, 38-9024-0030387-00
Billboards – small 900x600m: $52 / large 2440x1220m: $140 – can be made directly to: email@example.com
Ministerial Inquiry welcomed, but concerns remain
Organisers of a petition calling for an independent inquiry into land use in Tairāwhiti have welcomed the announcement by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins of a Ministerial Inquiry.
“This is good news for our region that continues to suffer so badly from woody debris and silt flowing off erosion-prone land that should never have been cleared of native forest” said Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti representative Hera Ngata-Gibson.
The inquiry will look at land use prior to Cyclone Bola through to the present, including forestry practices and farming, with a focus on both slash and silt. It will also identify economic barriers to better land use alternatives, particularly indigenous reforestation.
“Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti will be encouraging the more than 10,000 supporters who called for the inquiry, to contribute into the process and we will do everything we can to ensure the inquiry is thorough, constructive and comes out with findings that can shape truly sustainable land use into the future.”
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti do have some concerns and suggestions about the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry:
- We appreciate the short timeframe will allow the Government to act on any recommendations prior to the end of Parliament this term, but we are concerned that two months will be insufficient time for our communities, who are already overwhelmed by two major flood events this year, to properly organise the evidence and recommendations we would want to present to the panel.
- It is good to see the inquiry will also look at national policy frameworks including the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forests, and the Permanent Forests category of the ETS, but we expect the inquiry to be just the start of a much bigger programme of work involving:
- urgent changes to national and regional rules, and opportunities to expedite rule changes given the significant risk and urgency the current situation presents;
- Government support for a regional Just Transition Plan as hill country farming and forestry come to an end on erosion-prone land;
- a review of the capacity and capabilities of local authorities to set robust rules, monitor compliance and enforce the rules.
- While the Terms of Reference provides for written submissions and encourages further engagement with local stakeholders, we expect the panel will spend time in affected communities listening to locals who may prefer to provide oral and visual evidence as much as written submissions. The process should be engaging and approachable and all-embracing. It should not be hard for people to get to the Inquiry – it needs to travel and it needs to allow our communities to spend the time we need to tell our stories, express our grief, share our ideas and host the Panel so they “feel” what they are hearing. Two months to do all of that and write a report seems too short.
- We recommend the panel publish a draft report for stakeholder comments on the accuracy and completeness of the draft, prior to finalising their findings and recommendations to the Ministers.
- 88% of the land in Tairāwhiti is erosion-prone, more than half of all land in Tairāwhiti is in the severely erosion-prone ‘red zone’. (Ref: Erosion susceptibility overlay, Tairāwhiti Maps, GDC website)
- Despite millions of dollars spent over 60 years of planting trees to control erosion in the region, recent evidence shows the problem is worse now that it was in 1960. (Ref: https://nzjforestryscience.nz/index.php/nzjfs/article/view/226)
Has our petition been hijacked by the same entities it wants investigated?
Nearly ten thousand people like you have signed the petition calling for an independent inquiry into land use in Tairāwhiti (we only need 500 more people to get to 10,000, please keep sharing it!).
While the petition has animated politicians and industry representatives alike, it appears there are efforts to undermine the integrity of processes the petition calls for.
Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti, the group of residents responsible for organising the petition, along with dozens of supporters, packed the Gisborne District Council chambers last week to present the petition and hear from councillors. Presenters of the petition made it clear at the Council meeting that an independent Public Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2013 is the type of investigation the petition expects.
What we’d seen prior to the Council meeting was a subtle, but critical, twisting of the petition demands with Eastland Wood Council talking about a ‘review of regional resilience‘.
Councillors made many speeches in response and unanimously endorsed a set of staff recommendations supporting the petition requests and have sent the petition along with the supporting Council resolutions to the Ministry for the Environment who advise David Parker as Minister for the Environment.
This week a meeting was organised in Tairāwhiti with four Government ministers (Stuart Nash, Damien O’Connor, Kiritapu Allan and Meka Whaitiri) along with the forestry companies and their industry organisations (Eastland Wood Council and the NZ Forest Owners Association), Trust Tairāwhiti (owner of Eastland Port), Gisborne District Council (regional regulator and also owner of significant farms and forestry holdings in the region), Federated Farmers (farm owners), iwi organisations (some of which have significant forestry and farming interests in the region) and a bunch of other government agencies.
The petition organisers weren’t invited and were initially denied an opportunity to say anything until East Coast MP Kiritapu Allan intervened. We reiterated to the meeting that a Public Inquiry under the Inquiries Act was what the petition organisers expected and a locally-led review would not be an acceptable response to the petition.
Minister of Forestry, Stuart Nash, responded directly saying: “I am supportive of an independent inquiry into land use practices on highly erodible soils in Tairāwhiti… Minister Parker and I have received briefings from our respective ministries on what that would look like and so we’re progressing it.”
A media release issued after the meeting suggested however that those entities responsible for the current mess should set the terms of reference for a review of the situation. Of course there’s no way any of the organisations connected to the ongoing catastrophe should be setting the Terms of Reference for a “review” of how they have let this happen.
So, we need your help again sorry.
A message needs to be sent urgently to Cabinet ministers and Tairāwhiti MPs that the local industry and regulator just reviewing themselves is unacceptable. Of course the companies and Council can do whatever they want, but petitioners expect a fully independent Public Inquiry (signed off by the Governor General) that will have a robust process, integrity and transparency.
If you can spare two minutes, please email the following ministers and MPs:
- David Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org), or better still phone his office and leave a message: 04 817 8710.
- Stuart Nash (email@example.com) and/or phone his office: 04 817 8712
- Kiritapu Allan (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or phone her office: 04 817 8732
- Meka Whaitiri (email@example.com) and/or phone her office: 04 817 8734
Your message might be something like:
A Public Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2013 is what we need to properly investigate the ongoing issues with unsustainable land use in Tairāwhiti. We need Cabinet to urgently establish the inquiry rather than leaving it to those responsible for the problems to set the terms for investigating the problems. If we don’t get a proper inquiry then this Government will be held fully accountable.
Feel free to CC us in your email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mayor Rehette Stoltz (email@example.com).
Thank you for caring, sharing and daring to hold those with the power to make positive change accountable to the communities they claim to represent!
Footnote: The Gisborne Herald is running an online poll this week that you can also vote on (righthand side of the home page): “Do you think an independent inquiry into land use in Tairawhiti would be better than a review?”