Environmental concerns raised over commercial logging in Lyttelton Harbour
Residents are concerned that the felling of pine trees on Moepuku Peninsula, right, could lead to sediment run-off.
Locals are worried the commercial logging of pine trees on Canterbury’s Moepuku Peninsula will cause environmental damage to a nearby island and harbour.
Governors Bay residents plan to meet with Environment Canterbury (ECan), landowner YSX Limited and harvesting contractor Laurie Forestry Services Ltd to express concerns how the felling and replanting of trees on the 50-hectare block will be managed.
Governors Bay Community Association member John Bannock said the meeting was in response to questions residents had raised, including concerns about the possibility of sediment entering Lyttelton Harbour. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
Then-owner Patrick Cotter planted the forestry block on the peninsula, located between the head of the harbour and Charteris Bay, between 1981 and 1984.
Bannock said some residents believed the pine trees were originally planted to stabilise the soil and were not intended to be logged commercially.
“There is a general acceptance that while the trees are not ideal they are serving a purpose.”
He said residents remembered when a previous logging operation in the area went badly wrong and were worried it could happen again.
Loudon Farm, near Teddington, was badly damaged in 2017 when swathes of logs and debris washed onto Philip King’s farm after a heavy rainfall.
Tonnes of slash (logging off-cuts) washed down a stream that ran through the farm, flattening fences and ruining grazing paddocks. Logs and sediment also washed into Lyttleton Harbour.
Laurie Forestry Services Ltd, which was granted permission to harvest the Moepuku Peninsula trees by ECan in January, was convicted and fined $71,000 in 2019 after poor practices led to significant sediment pollution in the Marlborough Sounds.
Bannock said residents needed to know how the owner and contractor planned to manage the Lyttelton Harbour logging to prevent soil erosion.
“There are potentially better crops to have, but it’s how it gets implemented that is the concern.”
ECan’s website states the landowner intended to replant the area with slower-growing conifers for a commercial crop but would also enhance and expand the existing native vegetation.
ECan said the mature pine trees that were currently there posed an environmental problem if they were left to rot and fall into the harbour.
The peninsula reached towards the southern end of Quail Island and the chairman of the island’s restoration trust, Ian McLennan, said they were concerned that more sediment in the harbour would create a land bridge that would give predators easy access to the island.
The trust was formed in 1997 and had worked to restore Quail Island’s native ecology. It had eradicated most pests and planted thousands of trees in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Ngāti Wheke of Rapaki.
McLennan said the pine trees had helped keep the rat population down as they did not provide an ideal habitat for the rodents, but the population could grow with different plant species.
Felling the trees might also drive deer across to the island, he said.
ECan Banks Peninsula zone delivery lead Gillian Jenkins said the council was aware of residents’ concerns about sediment run-off and was working with the landowner to ensure all regulations were met.