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Forestry management company prosecuted

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

American-owned forestry management company, Merrill and Ring, has been fined $39,000 and ordered to pay $20,000 in reparations after their actions and practices led to the flooding of a Marlborough property in November 2016.

Merrill and Ring New Zealand Limited, who manages forestry in Marlborough, recently pleaded guilty to two charges laid under the Resource Management Act 1991 in the Blenheim District Court.

The company managed a 230 hectare forestry block in the Waikakaho Valley which they commercially harvested during October 2013 and January 2014. Their resource consent for this operation contained very clear conditions relating to forestry debris in the nearby stream bed. However, Merrill and Ring failed to ensure the streambed was left free of logs and other forestry related waste when they had finished harvesting, despite being instructed to remove woody debris by Council in June 2016.

In November 2016, during a period of heavy rain, the stream running through the forestry block flooded and subsequently burst its banks. The build-up of forestry debris and logs in the streambed from the commercial forestry operation substantially contributed to this occurring.

When the stream burst its banks the water was pushed towards a nearby property occupied by a couple and their four young children. The family woke to find large volumes of water, mud, logs and the woody debris rushing past their house. They were evacuated from their property by helicopter and their property suffered significant damage.

Marlborough District Council’s Compliance Manager Gina Ferguson said she hopes the convictions send a message to others in the forestry industry.

"Council does not take the decision to prosecute lightly. However, in circumstances where the offending and culpability are sufficiently serious Council has a responsibility to escalate enforcement action. It is hoped that this prosecution acts as a general deterrent to others in the forestry industry and highlights the importance of managing forestry operations to prevent adverse environmental effects."

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