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Removal of woody debris from Hawke's Bay rivers underway

Woody Debris Release Image

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is removing nearly 40,000 tonnes of woody debris from Hawke’s Bay rivers and catchments as the region continues to recover from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Following Central Government’s funding injection earlier this year to address debris, the Regional Council used aerial surveys to identify and prioritise high-risk catchments. Identified areas that met the criteria of the funding agreement include Waipawa River, Mangaone River, Aropaoanui River, Esk River, Mangakapikopiko Stream, and Wairoa River.

Regional Council Acting Group Manager Integrated Catchment Management Anna Madarasz-Smith, says removal of woody debris is crucial to prevent any further damage to infrastructure and local communities throughout the region.

“Cyclone Gabrielle caused a number of land slips, which brought down trees that are near the edges of waterways or in the rivers. Now, it’s incredibly important we work quickly to safely remove what we can to reduce risk of any further damage in another rain event.

“With funding from Ministry of Primary Industries, we are shredding and burning the debris, including heli-burning high in the Waipawa River catchment.

“Heli-burning is where helicopters fly near the wide-open riverbed to ignite and burn large amounts of debris. Our contractors have already been heaping the wood into piles to maximise the success of this burning and have ensured they are far from other vegetation.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council also has team members regularly visiting each location ensuring wildlife like dotterels are protected.

Heli-burning has been widely used in New Zealand and overseas, especially for backburning to control the spread of wildfires.

The current funding agreement to remove woody debris will end on the 31 December 2023 with discussions to extend this date now taking place.  

1 November 2023

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