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Helicopter Work Along Waimatā River Starts Soon

Over the next two to three months, Gisborne residents around the lower Waimatā River will hear chainsaws and see helicopters, as work begins to clear the river of large woody debris.

Council Community Lifelines Director Tim Barry says it’s great to be at this stage.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this point after Cyclone Gabrielle and this work is part of clearing our rivers, protecting infrastructure and mitigating future risk.

“Given the river’s proximity to town, these helicopter operations will be highly visible.

“Using a helicopter is cost-efficient and we thank the landowners who have helped us with access to their land.”

Helicopters were also chosen due to the challenging terrain along the lower Waimatā River. Steep, silty banks make heavy equipment impractical, especially during winter conditions.

Chainsaw work has already started to chop up the wood first.

Starting from next Monday, June 17, helicopters will intermittently operate between 7 am and 5 pm.

Each cycle will last 3-5 days, with return visits as needed.

Mr Barry says the helicopters will predominantly fly on the true-left side of the Waimatā River (away from Riverside Road) to minimise traffic disruption.

“Occasional road closures or traffic control may be necessary during brief clearing periods.

“Debris will be taken to designated safe locations for high-oxygen burning or secured areas for natural decomposition.”

This is the latest work in the removal of large woody debris around the region after 1.4 million tonnes of it was washed down hills and into waterways during Cyclone Gabrielle.

So far 392,273 tonnes have been removed at the end of May.

The amount spent on this work, to the end of April, is $15,847,303.12.

Gisborne District Council has received $93.4 million from the Government towards the cleanup of large woody debris and sediment after Cyclone Gabrielle.

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