New Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Stan­dard will chal­lenge some foresters

New Zealand Logger - - Forest Talk -

FOR­EST OWN­ERS SAY THE IN­TRO­DUC­TION of a Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Stan­dard for Plan­ta­tion Forestry is vi­tally needed for de­liver bet­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes, but it could chal­lenge some to meet the new rules and will also pre­clude plan­ta­tions from ero­sion­prone ar­eas.

The gov­ern­ment has re­leased the NES, to bring in a stan­dard set of en­vi­ron­ment reg­u­la­tions for plan­ta­tion forests across the coun­try, which is set to come into force on May 1, 2018.

An­nounc­ing the new stan­dard last month, Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment Dr Nick Smith and As­so­ciate Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries Louise Up­ston say the ef­fi­ciency of the in­dus­try has been ham­pered by the con­fus­ing mix of plan­ning rules across New Zealand’s 86 coun­cils.

“The strength of this na­tional ap­proach is that it will bet­ter pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment while also im­prov­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the forestry sec­tor by ap­ply­ing con­sis­tent en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards to re­duce op­er­a­tional costs,” says Dr Smith.

The reg­u­la­tions cover eight forestry ac­tiv­i­ties; in­clud­ing re-af­foresta­tion, earth­works, har­vest­ing, quar­ry­ing and in­stalling stream cross­ings.

For­est Own­ers En­vi­ron­ment Com­mit­tee chair­per­son, Peter Weir, says for some op­er­a­tors the NES will re­quire a step up in the qual­ity of their har­vest­ing, ero­sion and sed­i­ment con­trol and for­est road con­struc­tion.

Peter Weir says it has taken eight years to get the NES through to im­ple­men­ta­tion to re­solve the lack of con­sis­tency, and too much com­plex­ity, be­tween dif­fer­ent re­gional and district coun­cil rules for forestry.

He adds: “We’ve had for­est blocks strad­dling lo­cal body bound­aries and have had to com­ply with dif­fer­ent sets of some­times con­tra­dic­tory rules in build­ing roads and har­vest­ing the trees. It’s made no sense on the ground.

“And it’s been ex­pen­sive and frus­trat­ing for our in­dus­try, and for en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates for that mat­ter, to fre­quently have to work through the same is­sues time and again in plan changes with mul­ti­ple re­gional coun­cils.

“Look­ing for­ward, the NES means large ar­eas of ero­sion prone farm­land will ef­fec­tively be­come off-lim­its for plan­ta­tion forestry. The NES spec­i­fies th­ese ar­eas can now only be planted with a Coun­cil re­source con­sent and it’ll be sub­ject to a de­tailed risk as­sess­ment.”

Mr Weir be­lieves the NES will di­rect in­vest­ment into plant­ing in more sta­ble land­scapes, mean­ing a much-re­duced risk of slopes fail­ing in storms af­ter har­vest and thus fewer de­bris flows down­stream.

He pre­dicts the NES will also in­crease for­est road­ing and har­vest­ing stan­dards, adding: “We know there is cur­rently too wide a range in the qual­ity of for­est en­gi­neer­ing.

“Har­vest­ing is the most ex­pen­sive stage of forestry and for some own­ers and con­trac­tors in the past the temp­ta­tion to cut corners was too great. If there is heavy rain then we read about the re­sult in the news­pa­pers.

“NES has made it much clearer what the ex­pected stan­dard is, al­though for some forests, es­pe­cially small blocks, costs will in­crease.”

Also, coun­cils may ap­ply stricter rules in special cir­cum­stances where lo­cal con­di­tions re­quire a more re­stric­tive ap­proach

“The next step I would like to see is that some as­pects of the stan­dards are ex­tended across all land users, from agri­cul­ture to gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, in­clud­ing stream cross­ings in the DoC es­tate,” says Mr Weir.

He goes on to say that a key value of the NES for the for­est in­dus­try is that it is the re­sult of col­lab­o­ra­tion with New Zealand’s en­vi­ron­men­tal NGOs.

“Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments; MPI and MfE, had Fish & Game and For­est & Bird around the ta­ble through much of the process. We ap­pre­ci­ate their in­put and are aware of what things are im­por­tant to them.

“The NGO in­volve­ment was very ben­e­fi­cial for our in­dus­try mem­bers when we were de­vel­op­ing good prac­tice guid­ance for pro­tect­ing en­dan­gered species such as Long Tailed Bats, Kiwi, Kea and Karaearea in plan­ta­tion forests.”

NZL

The new Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Stan­dard will pro­vide con­sis­tent rules for plan­ta­tion forests across the coun­try.

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