With 1200 truckloads of wood heading to Napier Port each week, and potentially more to come, the region's roading network is being put under pressure, but it's nothing that hasn't been planned for, say local and regional authorities.

According to port figures, Napier Port exported two million tonnes of logs over the last 12 months.

About 10 per cent of those arrived via rail, but the rest was on trucks delivering six days a week, equating to about 200 full loads per day.

The burden on the region's roads was noted in the Regional Land Transport Plan 2015-2025, which was approved by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council this week, with the condition of State Highway 2 from Napier to Wairoa said to be of particular concern.


Already a winding road with few passing opportunities, and travel times compromised by heavy vehicles on the route, the situation was set to worsen with forecasts that one-way logging movements from Wairoa would increase from 171 per day in 2017 to 278 by 2023, the plan said.

A partial solution was the introduction of more rail cartage, estimated to decrease this traffic by 50 per day when harvesting was in full swing, but given the predicted overall increase, road safety and travel times were still considerations.

Wairoa-based regional councillor and deputy chair of the regional transport committee Fenton Wilson said that as well as the main highway networks, smaller country roads would be challenged.

"We are certainly conscious of safety concerns - as these forests get harvested from the hills in the rural areas they impact rural communities, but companies are generally very proactive about safety and ensuring they don't disrupt normal rural life, such as advising the community of what they are doing and trying to limit truck movements around school bus times.

"When our forefathers planted these forests 25 to 30 years ago no one gave a thought to the harvest challenges."

Forests being planted today were planned quite differently with buffer zones and people were more conscious of the environmental consequences such as dealing with slash post-harvest, he said.

While there was still a lot of harvesting to be done yet, he said he was encouraged by conversations within the transport committee, which included logging truck companies, that the issues would be addressed.

In Central Hawke's Bay, where big harvests were coming out of Porangahau, 50,000 tonnes of logs a year were currently being transported through the district, predicted to rise to 250,000 tonnes a year by 2032, said CHB District Council chief executive Monique Davidson.


As well as logs coming from large forestry options, property owners with large forestry blocks were also taking advantage of the favourable price for logs and harvesting now, adding extra pressure to the roads that were not designed to withstand such usage.

"We need to think strategically about a long term solution for our roads that won't put too much of a financial burden on ratepayers," Davidson said.

"We have been doing some modelling and are interested in exploring working with these companies to see how we can recover some of that cost."

The prospect of using rail more came into the equation, and she expected conversations would be had with the NZ Transport Agency to work out how to address some of the local implications, including road safety.

At the same time, there were considerations around the economic and social opportunities the increase in logging activity could bring to the region, in terms of the larger workforce that would be required.

"With the projected increase there will need to be more people doing the work and we need to think about what we are doing to ensure we are gaining economically, socially and environmentally from what is a challenge, but also an opportunity."

In the Hastings district, a council spokesperson said the council received weekly updates from the two largest Hawke's Bay forestry operators on areas being logged and routes being used to bring logs out of the forest.

As well as this being factored into the council's road maintenance programme, ten-year forecasts also informed road surface renewals, which could be put off until the heavy loading was complete.

In addition, this information helped prioritise bridge strengthening work.