Hicks Bay wharf to relieve East Coast log route
A PLAN TO RELIEVE THE CHALLENGING coastal drive for log truck drivers on the East Coast by building a wharf at Hicks Bay has got the thumbs up from Forestry Minister, Shane Jones.
He told the New Zealand Institute of Forestry annual meeting in Nelson last month that one of his responsibilities under his other hat, as Minister for Regional Development, is to ensure there is good infrastructure for commerce to thrive in the provinces.
Mr Jones pointed to the main highway that hugs the coast north of Gisborne as being “treacherous” for those who used it on a regular basis, such as log truck drivers, which is a hindrance.
“The roads are treacherous, they’re difficult to maintain and if people want to plant pine trees and then be able to harvest them in the future they will need infrastructure,” he says.
“That is why we are keen to help your industry in that part of the country and establish a wharfage facility at Hicks Bay, to take logs off the roads. This is a project that I have encouraged people to back.”
It’s not a new idea – there have been suggestions in the past for a wharf to be established at Hicks Bay where logs trucked from forests in the north of the region can be barged to a larger port and off-loaded onto ships. Eastland Port and officials from Te Uru Rakau (the newly created Forestry New Zealand) are looking at the feasibility. Eastland is also working on plans to redevelop the main port at Gisborne to allow two logs ships to berth at the same time, instead of one.
But in the wake of the Tolaga Bay floods, Mr Jones has also warned that plantation pines are unlikely to be planted on Crown land on the East Coast.
“Natives, yes, but not pines for harvesting, it’s too risky on those hills,” he says, adding that he couldn’t direct private owners not to plant pines on their own land, which they are free to do, as long as they meet rules and regulations.
The Minister also had some advice to the industry about the rising number of logs being exported from New Zealand, while mills continue to complain of wood shortages.
“I don’t want to see logs going overseas when sawmillers and wood processors are telling us that they don’t have enough confidence to invest and expand here in New Zealand, because they can’t get adequate contracts that give them confidence of supply,” says Mr Jones.
“Yes, I did talk about a tax on export logs on the campaign trail, but that is probably not doable and extra taxes are not a good thing for businesses and I can see it is going to be difficult.
“I say to you as professionals, that exporting logs without reference to your neighbours or your neighbours’ children is a very big political challenge for me. We do have solutions, but they will come at the level of regulation. I have asked that we look at whether it is a good idea for log exporters to be registered, as we do for real estate agents.”