Forest standard will make it easier to be green

17 June 2015

Forest owners say they are thrilled that a National Environmental Standard (NES) for Plantation Forestry is within sight.

Environment minister Nick Smith and associate primary industries minister Jo Goodhew announced today that the proposed standard has been cleared by Cabinet and is open for public consultation. All going well, it will become law in 2016.

"The standard will give certainty to anyone establishing or harvesting a forest in New Zealand. Rules in all regions will be based on the soil erosion risks posed by a particular class of land, rather than the region in which the forest is located," says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

"The forest industry is extremely proud of its environmental credentials, which will be reinforced by the new standard. Instead of fighting regional council red tape, we can focus on doing a great job in our forests.

"Regional councils have played an important role in developing the standard, which will make forestry a permitted activity on all land of low erosion risk. On land of high erosion risk, resource consents will be needed to ensure that the erosion risks associated with forest roading and harvesting are minimised."

Mr Rhodes says a spin-off from the NES will be the development of improved environmental management tools that can be used across the country. Already, refinements are being made to the national soil erosion risk maps that underpin many of the proposed rules. A national fish spawning calendar is being developed and a wilding pine spread risk calculator has been adopted.

He says praise for getting the standard to this point is due to the association's environmental committee, led by its chair, Peter Weir.

"Their persistence and sheer hard work with successive governments for nearly a decade has borne fruit. At the same time praise is due to ministers Smith and Goodhew, who understood that this is not about reducing protection for the environment but about finding ways to cut through needless red tape."

Mr Weir said he was thrilled to hear the news. He says the differing rules have made it difficult to manage forests in more than one region, or blocks that straddle two regions.

"Resource consents will no longer be needed to carry out forest operations that are done in the same way, every day, in those forests where the erosion risk is low. Nor will we have to participate in the ongoing churn of plan reviews in councils up and down the country.

"The NES will simplify forest operations, make it easier for us to comply with the rules and to build better training systems. Everyone – forest owners, contractors and their crews – will know what is expected of them."

Mr Weir says the standard will result in the rules relating to forestry becoming more detailed for activities like stream crossings, but will produce better environmental outcomes. There will also be a requirement for all land owners undertaking afforestation to take responsibility for any wilding conifer spread across boundaries.

"The development of the proposed NES has been greatly assisted by the hard work of the forestry team at the Ministry for Primary Industries, as well as the collaborative decision-making process," he says.

"As with the national water policy, collaboration has resulted in a high degree of co-operation and cohesion among interested parties, with special credit due in this case to the input from and perseverance of Fish & Game and Forest & Bird.

"Thanks to this process, we believe the proposed standard will have the broad support of most stakeholders, including environmental and land user groups. Nevertheless, consultation with the wider public is important in order to get the widest possible buy-in."

More information about the proposal, and how to make a submission, can be found on the MPI website.

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For more information, please ring David Rhodes, Tel 027 495 5525 or Peter Weir, Tel 027 454 7873