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'It's pretty tough' - Tolaga Bay locals frustrated as more timber debris washes up

Gisborne District Council is investigating and Tolaga Bay locals are frustrated after more timber debris has washed up on their beloved beach.

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Gisborne District Council is investigating the latest spill, but forestry companies in the area say they’re doing their part. Source: 1 NEWS

A carpet of logs and debris strewn across Tolaga Bay’s famous beach is so thick it's hard to see the sand in places.

And local farmer Henry Gaddum has had enough.

“The thought that more pine trees are going to be planted in this region is scary, to say the least," says Mr Gaddum.

Recent severe weather has caused slash, the leftovers from logging, to be washed down from the hills, trashing the beach.

But the local industry says it isn't from recent operations.

Kim Holland from the Eastland Wood Council says the wood on the beach isn’t all slash.

"As far as we are aware none of the material on Tolaga Bay is new wood. It hasn't been mobilised from forests. It's old and weathered wood.”

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'We can't carry on like this' – Tolaga Bay residents live in fear of logging slash washing through their properties

It's on ongoing issue for the area.

In June 2018, heavy rain caused mass devastation with an estimated one million tonnes of logs damaging roads and properties.

Holland says since the forestry companies have put in new measures to reduce the risk of large scale debris coming down.

“That involves making sure all wood is away from streams and waterways, that they have setbacks so they pretty confident their systems have been working.”

The worry for the community is that what is seen on the beach is only the tip of it. There'll be more in the creeks, the rivers and the ocean, and it'll be affecting the whole ecosystem.

Gisborne District Council says since June 2018 it's had a proactive monitoring programme working with local industry to ensure compliance. It's successfully prosecuted some forestry companies and others are before the courts.

The size of the loose timber has made the beach dangerous for some.

Tolaga Bay Surf Lifesaving coach Kerehama Blackman says he’s worried about the club's future if the beach keeps being polluted.

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Thirty-six homes were affected by flooding and slash over the past two weeks Source: 1 NEWS

“[It’s] heartbreaking because we've got our season coming up around the corner and you can't use the bike. I've got 16-year-olds carrying boats. Just doesn't affect us on the beach, it affects the whole community. “

Farmers like Mike Parker say they live in fear of it happening again.

“It rains and you sort of wonder what's going to happen. You got north easterlies and all the logs end up on the beach. It's just a constant circle, really, and not a lot been done about it and no one's interested.. Yeah, it's pretty tough."

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Forestry industry on notice after Tolaga Bay debris clean-up expected to cost $10m

Mr Gaddum says he wants Government to go to Tolaga Bay to talk to locals about how to solve the issues.

“We need them to stop dodging the responsibility of managing this crisis. We need them to empower local councils to also be able to act... We need an immediate hiatus on more farm land being sold off to blanket planting so we can all make a plan before it’s too late for the regions.”

The forestry industry says it's committed to help clean up the beach before summer.