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Counting cost of forestry

A review of revenue and financing policy might not show the forestry industry in a good light, Gisborne District Council was told.

Councillor Brian Wilson was speaking to a report on road maintenance costs and affordable funding prepared for the council by Maven Consulting Ltd. The report will be used to inform a revenue and financing policy review under way.

Mr Wilson likened the situation to when the council got regional roading funds for the “wall of wood” when the late Jim Anderton was the Minister of regional development.

“To me this seems to be the same scenario,” he said. “We are getting a large amount of money to fix up our roads.

“But in the long term we are going to be faced with exactly the same problem that we have had since we got that funding all those years ago. We are going to have the huge cost in maintaining those roads.

“We are going to have to be a bit more on to it and make sure that we have ongoing extra funding all the way through for the next 15 years so that we don’t fix up the roads, get them up to a good standard, everybody is happy, then slowly over time we cannot maintain them.”

The other interesting thing was that the report was investigating how efficient the forestry industry was in helping to develop the region, what it generated in income, jobs and so on and the associated costs.

“That is going to be a tough one because I suspect that it is not going to show forestry in a tremendously good light.

“The cost of having forestry in our region is going to outweigh the benefits of it. Of course that is going to be very controversial.

“Of course there are more things than just creating GDP, there are the jobs created and the flow-on effect.

If more funding was needed that would show if the ratepayers could afford it.

At least the council would be able to go to central government to say, for the forestry industry to carry on, “we can’t have ratepayers paying the maintenance of our roads long term. We need help from central government”.

Josh Wharehinga said some of the roads that were part of the network were never established to take heavy traffic. The money for that needed to come out of the central pot associated with road user charges.

“That cannot come from ratepayers,” he said.

“We have a vast roading network and a very small population that cannot sustain the running of it.”

Pat Seymour said who paid for the roads was always controversial.

The council needed to be clear, the ratepayer was not paying all the maintenance, the government share was 68 percent and was going up.

The report did talk about the economic benefits of forestry.

She was aware the forestry industry would really like to work with the council and felt shut out.

“We should encourage them to be in there,” she said.

“We need to make use of the offer they made to us to be a part of the discussion and pay a fair sum to participate in the cost of roading maintenance.”

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the information from the report had been sent to the industry. This was the first step of a journey the council needed to go on, “so let’s talk about it.”

Meredith Akuhata-Brown said there had to be a massive discussion about the impact of this huge industry. That should have been held 30 years ago when it was identified that forestry would be so huge in this district.

The impacts also included social, emotional and spiritual aspects. More people were asking for these to be noted. The impacts were going to continue.

Bill Burdett said this was the first opportunity the council had to look at the value of forestry. With the “buckets of money” that were coming it was time to do that.

This was an insightful report, said Amber Dunn.

The two big contributors to the local economy were agriculture and horticulture. If forestry had an impact on those the district would go backward.