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‘We do care’ say HFF owners

Hikurangi Forest Farms wants 30,000 tonnes less wood waste a year left behind in the forests after harvesting.

“We do care,” Samling Group of Companies CEO Lawrence Chia said during a flying visit yesterday.

Samling is the Malaysia-based owner of Hikurangi Forest Farms Ltd (HFF) operations in Gisborne.

Mr Chia flew from Malaysia yesterday and was in the region for less than 24 hours.

“It is a big concern for us and the fact I am here as CEO of the group shows how very important this event is to us.

“This is something that we will go in and help with to get it right, without hesitation.”

HFF has 35,000 hectares of forest here.

Mr Chia visited Tolaga Bay yesterday afternoon to meet the family who had to be rescued from their roof by helicopter after floodwater full of logs crashed into their home at 4am on June 4.

They were the most immediate neighbours to the Hikurangi catchment area in Uawa.

Mr Chia said he wanted to let the family know they would help in any way they could.

“I’m sure they are going though a very traumatic time.”

On June 4, an estimated 40,000 tonnes of wood came down hills inland from Tolaga Bay.

It entered waterways, and destroyed 36 farms and three homes in the Uawa Catchment area.

Mr Chia said he was updated daily by HFF manager Ian Brown after the event.

HFF, Ernslaw One and PF Olsen were the three forestry companies harvesting in the area at the time.

Mr Brown said he had an immediate response from Mr Chia in Malaysia to “go ahead” and do whatever they could to help clean up and help affected land owners,

Mr Chia believes they are good corporate citizens.

“I can’t say it won’t happen again. It was an act of God but there are areas we can improve on.”

“We made an investment two and a half years ago in Optilog.”

Mr Chia said this was to reuse the waste (slash) instead of leaving it in the forest.

Whole logs would now be trucked to Opitlog, where they would be cut and leftover wood turned to chip.

“There will be no logs left behind. As a group, we are the only ones in this region doing this.

“This common sense approach is that it will help (forestry) practice. There will be 30,000 tonnes less a year left in the bush.”

This will all be turned into chip at the Optilog plant, with the goal of 100 percent of their logs brought to the Dunstan Road plant by the end of the year.

Mr Brown said wood that came down on June 4 was old wood. It came down in volume because of land slips.

Mr Brown and Mr Chia are both relatively new to their roles.

Mr Brown has been manager of Hikurangi Forest Farms in Gisborne for nine months and Mr Chia has been Samling CEO for 18 months. He lives in Singapore and his job takes him around the world, with companies in China, Russia and South America.

In that respect, NZ was quite close, he said.

He tries to visit this region three to four times a year.

FACE TO FACE: Samling Group of Companies CEO Lawrence Chia from Malaysia flew in to Gisborne yesterday for less than 24 hours. The company owns Hikurangi Forest Farms Ltd (HFF) in Gisborne. He is pictured with HFF manager Ian Brown. During his flying visit, Mr Chia spoke with the Herald, visited Tolaga Bay and met the family who had to be rescued from their roof during the Queen’s Birthday weekend flood. Heis visit to the region was to show the company cares.Picture by Rebecca Grunwell