National forest code wins environmental award

15 Oct 2009

An environmental code that includes compulsory rules and best practice guidelines that members of the Forest Owners Association must observe in their day-to-day forestry operations has won a prestigious national award.

Peter Weir accepting awardThe Resource Management Law Association presented their 2009 award for the most outstanding resource management documentation to the Forest Owners environmental chair, Peter Weir, at their annual conference in Wellington earlier this month.

The Environmental Code which was published in 2007 has been adopted by most major forest owners and their contractors and endorsed by the NZ Farm Forestry Association.

A recent survey showed that more than 90 per cent of contractors involved in silviculture, harvesting, roading and earthworks, and agrichemical and fertiliser application, have adopted the Code. The association now plans to develop a system of auditing compliance with the Code, which is expected to form the basis of a planned National Environmental Standard under the RMA.

“Nearly 20 years ago NZ’s plantation forest industry decided that it needed to take ownership of its environmental performance. While well managed plantations offer major environmental benefits, forest operations take place in all weathers, on difficult terrain, in remote areas, often with heavy machinery and in potentially environmentally sensitive areas,” Mr Weir says.

“It was clear to us that we had to develop systems that were practical, effective and had the buy-in of our members. Some Regional Councils were imposing urban subdivision earthworks guidelines on us, but these are often inappropriate for a forest setting and out of step with international forest engineering best practice. If we didn’t set our own rules then we were looking at having even more regulations imposed on us by some Councils.

“We knew that we were on the right track when Fish and Game praised the development of our Code, with its compulsory and enforceable rules, and then encouraged other primary industries to take similar ownership of their environmental performance. Finding better ways to do things is far more productive and rewarding than fighting the legitimate concerns of the public.”

The 2007 Code is the most recent step in the forest industry’s journey to audited self-regulation and management. Based on an earlier code published in 1990 and three years of member consultation, it defines best environmental practices (BEPs) for forest operations.

“Some leading regional councils have signalled that they will remove the need for forest owners to get consents for forest operations where they can demonstrate audited compliance with the Code. Hopefully this will apply nationally with the adoption of a proposed NES for plantation forestry,” Mr Weir says.

Mr Weir thanks the Code’s many authors, making special acknowledgement of the important roles played by Chayne Zinsli and Kit Richards. He also thanks Brett Gilmore and Pan Pac Forests for allowing the company’s environmental management system to be used as a template for the Code.

For more information, please ring Peter Weir, Tel 027 454 7873