Anderton launches NZFOA environmental code

16 Aug 2007

The new Environmental Code of Practice for Plantation Forestry, developed by the NZ Forest Owners Association, has been officially launched by forestry minister Jim Anderton.

At a function held at the Beehive last night he said the code contributed to forestry’s role as the primary sector leader in environmental practice. The code is also being launched at regional events around New Zealand, as part of the industry roll-out of the NZWood campaign.

“The code … helps to reassure consumers of end products that have wood components, that those products are produced responsibly throughout the whole production chain. All over the world right now -- and particularly in high value markets -- consumers and regulators are growing more aware of environmental issues,” he said.

“They are asking more questions. They are demanding higher standards. And in many cases, they are setting barriers to access based on environmental measures.

“As awareness grows, we can hope that attention will move from the irrelevant issue of carbon used in transport -- to the genuinely important issues such as the total carbon used in production, and the overall environmental responsibility of producers.”

Mr Anderton explained that environmental sustainability is a commercial issue for New Zealand.

This because of the premium which can be achieved in global markets for products that are produced more responsibly and the commercial risk arising from the exposure of our primary production to climate change.

“We also have a moral responsibility to our children to do our bit to preserve the health of our habitat. When we look around at the tools we have to mitigate the effects of climate change, forestry stands out,” he said.

“Trees … help to stabilise soil on erosion-prone hillsides and to enhance water quality. And forests make an important contribution to bio-diversity, too. Not just indigenous forests -- our plantation forests are home to many indigenous species, including plants, insects, bats, kiwis and other iconic birds.”

He said foresters consider biodiversity when planning, growing and harvesting a commercial crop of trees.

“This is where the Environmental Code of Practice comes in. It provides a valuable set of guidelines to help forest managers, contractors and workers plan and carry out their tasks, while keeping the environment, and themselves, safe.

“As [NZFOA president] Peter Berg is reported as saying, there should be a well-thumbed copy of the code in the cab of every vehicle in the industry. Following the practices described in the Code will not just benefit the environment but will also help the industry to be more economically and socially sustainable. Public support for the industry will be stronger when it is seen to operate responsibly, and compliance costs will be lower.”

The NZWood campaign will help build public awareness of the environmental benefits of forests and wood-based products. It will build understanding among builders and consumers about the advantages of wood.

“Wood is truly a wonder product. It's versatile, cost-competitive, natural, strong, beautiful ? and available. That's why NZWood is, like the Code of Practice, supported by the government through the Forest Industry Development Agenda (FIDA). Over $4.5 million of FIDA funds are budgeted for NZWood through to June 2009,” he said.

The government is also supporting forestry through FIDA’s Excellence in Wood Design initiative. This $2 million fund provides support for two professorial positions at the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury.

Those positions will help to increase awareness about the ways timber can be used, and therefore to increase the use of timber. For example: teaching building professionals about designing buildings using wood. More awareness among these professionals will see timber used more often in commercial buildings and lead to the increased overall use of timber.

The government is setting an example. Within 12 months new government-funded building projects for buildings up to four floors will have to commission designs and consider options for using wood or wood-based products as the main structural materials.

Mr Anderton said the government is promoting these initiatives because its committed to a partnership with the forestry industry.

“Climate change and soil and water protection are important issues for New Zealand, and priorities for the government. Forestry is a key part of the solution. A vibrant, commercially sustainable and internationally competitive forestry sector can help us to achieve the government's environmental objectives.

“Not only that, but these initiatives will lead to more wood being used -- and so more wood being harvested and more replanting of harvested sites. An economically strong industry is also more likely to attract new investment and new planting.

“This is a crucial industry for New Zealand’s successful economic development and the code will help to assist forestry to grow and develop in an environmentally responsible way.

“This code is a positive development. Recent years haven't been the easiest of times for forestry. One of the most important challenges it has been facing has been to grow the use of higher value products. And value stems partly from environmental reassurance. ”

He said smaller forest owners and companies now have a robust and defensible code to work from. Best Environmental Practices in the code are an excellent decision-making and audit tool, and they will help reassure regulators and consumers -- here, as well as overseas. They'll make the job easier for local authorities, too, in setting a consistent, low compliance-cost set of environmental standards.”

Source: Speech notes for Hon Jim Anderton, edited