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Forest decision stands

Was more financial information needed or did the cost of moving from pine to native trees not matter if it came to protecting the region’s water supply?

That was the crux of the debate at an extraordinary meeting at the Gisborne District Council chambers on Thursday.

It revolved around Pamoa Forest — the council’s largest forestry asset — and protection of the city’s water pipeline that runs through it.

A decision was made by councillors on December 13 last year at a public-excluded meeting to replant Pamoa Forest, after it was harvested, 29 percent in pine trees, and 71 percent (800 hectares) in native species.

But on Thursday some councillors wanted the December decision cancelled because there was not enough information given about cost — in particular how much it would be to maintain weeds and pests in a forest replanted 71 percent in native species.

A council report states native tree species typically cost more than pine. This is because they usually cost more to source, can have greater management costs, often have higher failure rates, and (like pine) need ongoing weed and pest control.

“Left uncontrolled, weeds and pests can become significant and costly,” the report says.

Councillor Pat Seymour was adamant there needed to be more financial information provided to councillors about how much it would cost for weed and pest control.

Over 25 years the cost would be “enormous”, she said.

Mrs Seymour said they needed a better handle on some “honest costs and a fair analysis” so they knew what the council was committing to.

Amber Dunn said she did not need any more information.

She chose security of the water pipeline, and a 71/29 split of native re-vegetation and pine. Any new information was not going to change her mind, she said.

“We voted for native forests for the security of the water pipeline, which is significant infrastructure.”

Shannon Dowsing said the true cost of weed and pest control would not affect his decision either.

“That should not be our guiding force. I think we made the best decision first time round.”

Cultural, social and environmental factors were important, he said.

“To exclude those for more financial information would be wrong.”

Karen Fenn agreed.

“We are always looking at the money value. The value of natural resources can’t be measured.”

She wanted the natural and humanity value to take the lead.

Councillors vote against rescinding decisionLarry Foster backed sticking with the decision.

“I voted for 29 percent originally (to be replanted in pine) and I won’t change my mind. The water supply needs to be protected.”

Councillor Brian Wilson said the topic was whether councillors wanted more financial information.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz said she had enough information to make her decision in December.

“What other information can staff give to satisfy some councillors if staff feel they’ve given all the information?”

Bill Burdett said they needed to know exactly what it was going to cost.

Seymour replied: “That’s what our public deserve to know.”

The council bought two stations in 1989 following Cyclone Bola to form Pamoa Forest, and guarantee land use around the Waingake water supply pipeline.

It is now 1124 hectares of pine trees and just under 500ha of bush reserves.

n There were three points voted on by the 11 councillors present and Mayor Meng Foon.

Councillors Meredith Akuhata-Brown and Malcolm MacLean were absent.

The first point was that the contents of the report for the extraordinary meeting were noted.

This was a unanimous “yes”.

The second point was to rescind the decision that “about 29 percent of the area to be harvested is replanted in pine”.

This point was lost. Seven voted against cancelling their original decision in December and five voted for it.

The third point was to instruct the chief executive to provide further financial information consistent with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2002 and the long-term plan. This was accepted by a majority vote of 10, with councillors Foster and Dunn voting against the need for more information.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann will get council staff to provide more financial information.

It was all part of an ongoing process and there were still a number of steps to go, she said.