Forestry debris/slash by Susan Grimsdell

It’s something we’ve heard a lot about recently: slash – public enemy number one since the storms and the cyclone struck.  But it didn’t happen because of any natural phenomenon.  There’s nothing natural about billions of tonnes of dead trees and other forestry remains crashing into bridges, destroying roads and ending up on people’s property and on our beaches.  It’s no more natural than if I dumped my garbage on the street.  The companies that left their trash on the ground once they’d made their millions from cutting down trees, own the garbage, but they just walked off and left it all there waiting to be washed away by the next heavy rain.  As it was.

In 2019 Juken NZ, owner of 40,000 hectares of radiata pine, half in the East Coast area, was fined when its slash clogged waterways near Gisborne.  The fine – $152,000.  Juken is part of a multi-billion-dollar industry.  The Minister of Forestry used to work in the industry, and his good mates still do.  Well, you don’t make things difficult for your mates do you?

Most of the slash that did such terrible destruction is owned by Chinese companies.  What’s the chance of them sending hundreds of workers to clean it up?  What’s the chance of our government making sure they do?  Not if it might make the Chinese get in a huff and stomp away from trade deals.  So guess who’s going to do the work and cover the cost? Muggins. 

Let’s not use the language the offenders prefer – natural disaster.  The cause of the devastation is not natural; it’s not a terrible storm, the storm of the century – the actual causes are political and economic and can be laid at the door of fossil-fuel enterprises whose malign influence on our climate threaten our planet and, indeed, our species.  For decades, the major oil and gas companies have worked to sow doubt about climate change.  Also bearing responsibility are limp and ineffective government policies and politicians who have nothing but a supply of wet bus tickets in their armoury. 

With regard to disasters, we haven’t seen anything yet.  Slash is only the beginning. 

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