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.