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Published: 2000-10-12 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Regulatory Committee has praised a Whangapoua forestry company’s environmental performance.

Ernslaw One Ltd underwent an audit of its environmental performance at its forestry operations on the Coromandel Peninsula. At this week’s Committee meeting it received an overall compliance status of “minor non-compliance” – considered a very good result, given the scale and scope of activities on the Whangapoua Forest where higher than average standards were expected.

Environment Waikato Forestry Project Manager Grant Blackie said a number of locally, regionally and nationally significant values and specific sites were identified in and near the forest. They included the Whangapoua Harbour, Waingaro wetlands, Optionui River mouth wildlife refuge, Pungapunga and Castle Rock ecological areas, catchment streams, North Island brown kiwi populations and sites of archaeological and cultural significance.

The scale of operations was significant, with clear felling of 250 to 300 hectares and upgrading and construction of four to six kilometres of internal roads constructed each year. The primary concern was the potential for erosion and sedimentation, and environmental effects on watercourses and the harbours.

Forestry operations had been underway in the forest for about nine years and the most recent monitoring of streams by NIWA indicated some changes. Harvesting probably exacerbated the effects of a significant storm in March 1995 and slowed recovery of invertebrates at two stream monitoring sites. Water clarity declined during the first three years after harvesting within the Orewa catchment but is now showing improvement. Water temperatures increased significantly at three measured sites.

Changes in harbour bed levels have been relatively minor, and sediment changes were strongly related to storm events, along with the complete loss of seagrass and large reductions in animal communities from some areas.

Low priority non-compliance issues included remedial maintenance required to improve fish passage, placement of roading metal on low level stream crossings, which could wash into the streams, and technical non-compliances with no environmental effects. These issues were considered to be very minor in relation to the scope of activities and did not significantly affect the otherwise very high level of compliance at the site, he said.