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Forestry company failures result in prosecution

Forestry management company, Laurie Forestry Services Limited, has been convicted and fined $71,000 after their actions and practices led to significant sediment pollution in South East Bay of Pelorus Sound/Te Hoiere, in the Marlborough Sounds.

Laurie Forestry Limited, which operates throughout Canterbury, South Otago, the West Coast, and Marlborough recently pled guilty to two charges laid under the Resource Management Act 1991, in the Blenheim District Court.

The company managed a 111 hectare pine forestry block in South East Bay which they were commercially harvesting in May 2017. Their resource consent for this operation contained very clear conditions relating to the construction and management of skid sites used for harvest.

On 17 May 2017 Council received a complaint from a South East Bay resident relating to sediment in his water from the forestry harvest work. The following day the resident also advised Council of sediment coming off the hills and reported that a neighbouring bach was surrounded by mud from a slip.

Council officers travelled to South East Bay to investigate and arrived to find a large plume of sediment in the Bay originating from two slips from a skid site. It is estimated that visible sediment extended for about 400 metres into the Bay. Council officers inspected a bach which was almost completely surrounded by mud, and noted nearby fences had also been damaged and silt and rock deposited on lawns of other properties.

In his sentencing notes Judge B P Dwyer highlights that the poor design, construction, drainage and unsatisfactory position of the skid site used by Laurie Forestry resulted in the two slips.

Following a period of rain in the area the skid site failed resulting in significant flow on effects to South East Bay. Judge Dwyer noted that the effects of the sediment on water quality in the Bay were acute and intense in the short term, and that the effects on the seabed would be cumulative and long term.

Judge Dwyer also referred to systemic management failures by the company noting that Laurie Forestry should have known and complied with the resource consent.

Marlborough District Council’s Consents and Compliance Group Manager Gina Ferguson said she hopes the convictions send a message to others in the forestry industry, particularly when harvesting on challenging sites.

“Environmental offences are taken seriously by the Council and the courts and in circumstances like this where the offending and culpability are sufficiently serious, Council has a responsibility to escalate enforcement action.”

“As well as holding Laurie Forestry to account, we hope that this prosecution acts as a general deterrent to others in the forestry industry, and highlights the importance of managing forestry operations to prevent adverse environmental effects.”

You can view a copy of Judge Dwyer’s sentencing notes at: https://bit.ly/2vtqPmA


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