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FORESTERS SHOULDN’T FEEL SO SMUG ABOUT THE SUGGESTION BY Environment Minister, David Parker, for a cap to be placed on the number of dairy cows in order to improve the health of our streams and rivers. Forestry could be targeted for similar action soon.
Don’t believe it?
A decision last month by Nelson City Council to retire one-fifth of its own plantation forests as a result of criticism over sediment clogging a local river may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Just because we worked with lawmakers to create the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES), doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels. If anything, the NES is going to be used as a means to hold forestry to a much higher level of environmental responsibility than ever before. Possibly high enough to force plantation pines off some slopes.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the wise among us. The warning signs have been there to see in places like Gisborne, the South Island’s West Coast, parts of the Manawatu and Wairarapa, and, of course, Nelson and Marlborough.
Harvesting activities in plantation forests established in those regions have been blamed for causing slips, land degradation, flash flooding, blocking water courses and loss of habitat for aquatic life through sedimentation of river and sea beds – regardless of whether it is only one of a number of causes, or would have happened anyway, even if the land was covered by natives or grass.
While the NES has introduced a nationwide standard for plantation forestry activities in place of the hotch-potch of council rules, it has also tightened the requirements for forest owners/managers and contractors to lift their game.
Most are doing just that – although there are still some who flout their responsibilities, as illustrated by the recent prosecution in the Bay of Plenty for environmental damage caused by harvesting operations.
It is likely that councils will seek to use the NES to tighten the requirements around establishing a forest and the subsequent harvesting operations.
We are likely to see increased buffer zones between the forest edge and rivers; improved drainage and stop bank design; reduced landing/skid/roading footprint; and more pressure for highly sensitive land to be converted from growing plantation pines to become permanent forests.
There’s already wide recognition among forest owners, managers and contractors that some places weren’t meant for pines. But there is potential for more vocal opponents of forestry to call for a widespread plantation ban.
We can only hope that the environmental zealots that appear to have the ear of the Labour-led government, don’t use the NES as an excuse to seriously limit where and what trees we can plant.