Forest growers adopt national standard

8 Jun 2005

After five years of negotiation, the New Zealand forest industry has a national standard for sustainable plantation forest management.

NZ Forest Owners' Association (NZFOA) environmental spokesperson Peter Weir says the standard formalises management practices in what is arguably the most environmentally-friendly production forest industry in the world.

“New Zealanders generally appreciate that plantation forests provide big soil, water and carbon conservation benefits – as well as exports and employment.

“But they may not understand the detailed forest management practices that provide those benefits. These practices will be even less well understood by customers and communities overseas."

Consumers in affluent overseas markets sometimes unfairly associate all plantation forestry with the loss of natural forests in the tropics and elsewhere. They are unware of the positive environmental and social profile that forestry has in New Zealand.

“A national standard provides proof to potential customers everywhere that we are as good as we say we are," Mr Weir says.

“It also provides a mechanism for driving constant improvement in management practices, as new knowledge becomes available."

The standard covers the protection of biodiversity; water and soil protection; obligations to Tangata Whenua, employees, contractors and the wider community; safe chemical use; and a prohibition on the use of genetically modified organisms.

It enables independent verification that forest owners are growing and harvesting wood to an agreed standard under conditions that are environmentally and socially sustainable.

Mr Weir says New Zealand forest owners have a history of voluntarily committing to sustainable land use practices, starting with the 1991 Forests Accord.

This landmark agreement between the forest industry and major conservation organisations committed the New Zealand forest industry to the protection of indigenous forest remnants in the establishment and management of plantations. For their part, conservation groups recognised the sustainability and conservation benefits of plantation forestry.

Since 1991, forest owners have taken this commitment to heart and many have sought to obtain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for their forests using interim internationally prescribed standards. At present, 620,000 hectares or 34 per cent of the country’s total plantation area meets the council’s standards.

“The industry remains hopeful of FSC endorsement of the New Zealand standard, but after five years of negotiation, the NZFOA decided that a standard should now be implemented," says NZFOA president Peter Berg.

“It is acknowledged that the interim FSC standards are useful for some individual forest owners, but may be impractical to apply to the whole industry. Like Australia, Chile and several other countries, we have deemed it is better to base our national standard on rigorous and relevant standards."

Mr Berg says forest owners are appreciative of the significant input made by iwi, environmental, recreational and social groups in the development of the National Standard.

He says industry associations will be encouraging their members to get their forests certified, and exporters of forest products will be encouraged to adopt and promote the standard in domestic and international markets.

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For more information, please contact: Peter Weir, Tel 03 384 7873 or 0274 547 873 or Peter Berg, Tel 09 309 5049 or 021 421 291