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Woody debris mission

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Additional funding will help with the woody debris recovery from Wairoa’s beaches and riverbanks, with piled-up debris set to be cleared by the end of the year.

In the Wairoa district, around 25,000m3 of woody debris has been stockpiled to get the wood away from bridges and culverts and off beaches to provide safe recreational areas along the coastline, river mouths, beaches and bridges.

The work has been funded through the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council administered Silt and Debris Taskforce with $1 million allocated to Wairoa for woody debris removal. Another $500,000 in central government funding has recently been added to the project – which will allow debris that is stockpiled in recreational areas at Mahia, Taylor’s Bay, and Whakamahi to be cleared.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said Wairoa appreciates the government funding already received through the Silt Recovery Taskforce. “We need to remember that completing the removal of woody debris now will assist in mitigating further costly debris issues. We really needed this additional funding as leaving the project unfinished with piles of debris scattered around the district is a serious safety issue for our communities, particularly as we head into summer.”

Recently, a stacked pile of wood was set alight at Whakamahi Beach. This caused concern in the community and is challenging for Fire and Emergency NZ.

“The environmental and health and safety risks associated with the stacked heaps, particularly with a forecasted dry summer, cannot be overstated. Dry onshore winds could add to the issue, especially in the Mahia area, which has an unfortunate history of challenging wildfires through the dry wilding pine groves.

“The additional $500,000 will mean work can continue, but we still need certainty moving forward so we can continue keeping our crews working. We are looking at a raft of options to manage the wood that has been stacked, and likely scenarios include a range of burning material where appropriate, chipping, shredding or mulching or carted off-site if an appropriate receiving use can be found.”

Extensive clearing work has been ongoing for months, but large stretches of the Wairoa district coastline and riverbanks remain covered with woody debris which, if left, could remobilise and cause further problems. We also need to acknowledge that additional debris is still being freshly dumped on riverbanks and beaches. This is an ongoing problem, not a one-time fix. It is estimated millions of dollars are still needed to clear the coastline from Waikare to Mahia. “Councils will continue to advocate for the funding needed to complete this vital mahi. We will do everything we can to push for additional funding, and we want to see this work completed as much as our local residents. We ask people to please be patient with the recovery efforts and not create risk by burning any piled-up debris.”

15 November 2023

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