NZ forest crews are racing against the clock to harvest 6,500 hectares of trees after Cyclone Gabrielle caused havoc in the Taupō and Tūrangi areas earlier this year.
In February, Wood Central reported that the sound of trees snapping “was like the loudest gunshots you’ve ever heard” as Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through forests on New Zealand’s central North Island.
More than 40 crews have picked up 3.5 million cubic metres of wood with concerns that the felled timber could deteriorate before forest crews can salvage the remains.
According to New Zealand Forest Managers General Manager John Hura, “the salvage operation is a race against time.”
Speaking to RNZ, Mr Hura said the crews have been fortunate to date with “log quality holding up pretty well,” but with a hot, dry period on the horizon, “we expect some of the wood to deteriorate quickly.”
Last month, Wood Central covered the extensive recovery operation in the Hawkes Bay region, where the Oji Fibre-owned Pan Pac is preparing for a reopening later this month.
According to Mr Hura, the salvage operation was complicated by access requirements, “but with access tracks established, our crews are now going full steam ahead.”
“We’ve harvested 1.25 million cubic metres of logs. We want to do another million before Christmas at least, leaving a million to do so in the first half of next year,” he said.
Wood Central understands that logs are trucked to ports at Tauranga, Napier, Taranaki, and Wellington and are exported as sawn wood and chips to China and South Korea for processing.
“We aim to have the salvage all done by the end of June 2024.”
Mr Hura said the downturn in the log market and damage to forestry estates along the East Coast had been a blessing in disguise.
“There were a lot of displaced workers in Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti, so they’ve come over to give us a hand.”
“With the log market cooling from about June, harvesting contractors were also looking for work.”
Cyclone Gabrielle has become a key election issue ahead of next week’s national poll.
Last month, NZ Opposition leader Christopher Luxon visited the region in one of the first official engagements of his election campaign. Last week, the incumbent NZ Labour Government introduced a new regulation limiting forest slash.
The Hipkins Government has also committed NZ $2.1 million from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund (Te Pūtea Whakamauru Para) to boost the region’s waste-processing capacity.
According to Assitant Environment Minister Rachel Brooking, the support will help with the massive amount of rubbish and waste the cyclone leaves.
“It carried all materials in its path, including household contents, building materials, machinery and plastics.”