New national standard for plantation forestry is announced

A new nationwide set of environmental rules for managing New Zealand’s 1.7 million hectares of plantation forestry will better protect the environment and deliver significant savings in compliance costs, Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith and Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston say.

Forestry is New Zealand’s third largest primary industry but its efficiency is hampered by the confusing mix of planning rules across New Zealand’s 86 councils, Dr Smith says.

The strength of the national approach is that it will better protect the environment while  improving the productivity of the forestry sector by applying consistent environmental standards to reduce operational costs.

A major change with the new regulations is the development of three new tools for managing the environmental impacts from forestry, covering the issues of erosion, wilding pines and fish spawning.

The restrictions on forestry activities are related to the environmental risk rather than the council area in which a forestry operation is located.  This change is particularly important as 80 per cent of forest owners manage forests in multiple council areas.

“This new national forestry standard is part of the Government’s broader Resource Management Act reforms, facilitated by amendments passed in May this year,” Smith says.

“It follows other national regulations covering telecommunications, electricity transmission, waste tyre management, water metering and drinking water, contaminated soils and aquaculture.”

Ms Upston says the forestry industry will benefit from having a set of consistent regulations to operate under.

“Planning rules at local government level are subject to regular reviews and there could be as many as three sets of regional or district plan rules. Some large forests also cross local government boundaries, resulting in different rules for the same forest.”

“Removing this uncertainty will encourage greater investment in a significant contributor to our economy, especially at regional level. Forestry employs more than 26,000 people and exports total more than $5 billion a year,” Ms Upston says.

“The National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry covers eight core plantation forestry activities: afforestation, pruning and thinning to waste, earthworks, river crossings, forestry quarrying, harvesting, mechanical land preparation and replanting. Councils may apply stricter rules in special circumstances where local conditions require a more restrictive approach.”

The standard, which comes into force on 1 May, 2018, was developed jointly by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for the Environment. Support and guidance will be provided to councils, foresters and key stakeholders to ensure an effective rollout.


Minister Supports NZ Landcare Trust Citizen Science Project

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith gave his support for NZ Landcare Trust’s new Citizen Science based initiative at the Project Steering Group’s inaugural meeting. The Minister confirmed the Government will provide a grant of over $130,000 from the Community Environment Fund towards the costs of the project, which aims to increase citizen participation in scientific research and restoration.

The Chair of NZ Landcare Trust’s Board of Trustees Richard Thompson greeted the Minister and set the scene, identifying how NZ Landcare Trust works on a range of catchment management and environmental restoration type projects where measuring and monitoring plays a key role. With the right support, many community groups are very capable of undertaking monitoring and then using the results to determine the best approach to further restoration work.

The Minister confirmed the Government is backing Citizen Science and the role it can play in helping resolve difficult environmental problems like our water quality and species loss.

He said:

“Communities become more focused on these challenges when they are involved rather than being told from afar by a scientist or an official that there is a problem. Web-based technologies also make it easier to ensure data collection such as bird counts or water testing is done according to sound scientific methodology and to collate the data.”


“Citizen Science helps groups to manage their local environments to the highest level, and supports scientists to better understand the cultural side of ecosystem restoration. The growth of the Citizen Science movement in New Zealand is part of a welcome international trend.

“The Government’s contribution towards this project will help fund a national inventory of monitoring tools and training, user-friendly Citizen Science resources, regional stakeholder working groups in Auckland, Palmerston North, Nelson and Christchurch and a national symposium to share resources and strategies over the next three years.”

NZ Landcare Trust has drawn together a range of experts to form the initial Project Steering Group including representatives from NIWA, NZ Rivers Trust, Iwi/Hapu, Cawthron Institute, Federated Farmers, and Landcare Research. It is likely that other organisations will also get involved as the project moves forward.

A dedicated webpage is currently under development at