Media coverage of recent New Zealand storm events

Authors: Karen Bayne, Peter Edwards, Tim Payn
Publication: New Zealand Journal of Forestry, Volume N.Z.J.For. 2019, Issue N.Z.J.For. 64(1) 2019, pp 17-25, May 2019
Publisher: New Zealand Institute of Forestry

Abstract: Twice in 2018, severe storms and the remnants of tropical cyclones battered New Zealand, resulting in severe consequences for our landscapes and, in particular, forests and forestry. First, from 19 February through to 21 February ex-cyclone Gita swept across the top of the South Island, bringing wind gusts of up to 140 km/hour and between 115 and 130 mm of rain to the same area. Four months later, a significant storm over the weekend of 10-11 June brought very heavy rainfall to the East Coast, particularly around Tolaga Bay. Both events caused landslides, sediment and debris flows, and a sustained discussion about forestry. As a consequence of ex-cyclone Gita and other bio-geophysical factors, several landslides occurred in the Tasman district, bringing down tracts of forest and hillside sediments. The forest on these hillsides was a mixture of planted exotics and native species (Figure 1). Around Tolaga Bay, sediment and slash was washed off the hillsides, impacting property, infrastructure, local waterways and beaches. With relatively significant impacts from these weather events on forests and forestry operations, and downstream infrastructure, land and beaches, the local and national media took a great deal of interest in this, including reporting their views on forestry operations, local planning and consent decisions, and the experiences of the people affected. By examining and understanding the media and the public response to these events, there are at least two considerations for the forest sector. First, responding through changed practices that address the concerns where warranted may help maintain their social licence to operate and mitigate potentially unwarranted ongoing backlash. Second, the sector could develop ways in which to build ‘standing’ through proactive engagement with the media and public to forestall a potential backlash against the sector. This is particularly important as New Zealand ramps up attention on forests and forestry through the One Billion Trees programme. This paper examines media reporting around the outcomes from forests and forestry operations that have been hit by severe weather/climate events. This is a complex and sensitive, but topical, discussion as it is acknowledged there will be increasing instances of severe weather and climatic events in the future (c.f. Alexander et al., 2006) that will further impact on forestry.
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