Development of a National FSC Standard for New Zealand

This month we profile another important initiative, the development of a national standard for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

What is an FSC National Standard?

Representatives of FSC certified companies, ENGOs[1], Maori and other stakeholders are promoting the development an FSC National Standard.

Under FSC rules, it is possible to develop a "national interpretation" of the generic FSC standards so that the requirements of the Principles and Criteria of FSC are better targeted in a local context.

Unlike most countries with large FSC certified estates, New Zealand still operates under the generic rules. However, it is considered that because of the rather unique nature of the almost exclusively plantation-based industry in NZ, a National Standard is desirable.

Progress to date

Efforts to create a National Standard earlier this decade were unsuccessful. However, an improving relationship between the industry and ENGOs led to a mutual consensus that now was the time to re-awaken the National Standards process. Through a detailed consultation process involving representatives of the Economic, Social, Environmental and Maori Chambers in NZ, good progress has been made on many fronts and there is a mutual goal to have the draft standard lodged with FSC International before the end of the year.

The important issues

Important issues being worked through are:

  • Reserve set-asides. An initial target that 10% of all forest land holdings be reserved remains. However, there is a renewed focus on developing a more flexible formula that will enable some estates to "make–up" the 10% where they are located in situation where the literal rule is not physically achievable or doesn't make good environmental sense.
  • SLIMF forests rules. A huge barrier to the large number of our clients joining the FSC Group Scheme has been the costs involved in set-up. FSC provides for special rules to be established around "small or low intensity managed forests" (SLIMF) to facilitate easier access to FSC. A special working group has been looking at how to create workable SLIMF rules under the National Standard. As part of this process they will also be addressing the reserve set-aside mechanisms as small woodlots planted into pasture would often have particular difficulty in meeting the 10% set-aside rule.
  • Agrichemical use. FSC has always had strict policies regarding use of potentially hazardous chemicals. In NZ , the vertebrate poisons, cyanide paste & 1080, and the herbicide active ingredients terbuthylazine and hexazinone have only been able to be used with special derogations and subject to an ongoing programme of research into alternatives or better methods of use. PF Olsen has been involved, along with other mainstream industry interests, in directly funding this research initiative. A working group convened under the National Standards development process has been looking at a pathway for evaluating and approving for local use, subject to safety, chemicals that are or may come to be needed by the industry.

PF Olsen's Group Scheme

The new National Standard is important to members of the Group Scheme. While the aggregate of the area of set-asides well exceeds the 10% figure, individual forests in some areas do not; especially smaller ones.

For this reason both the threshold mechanism and the SLIMF rules are important and PF Olsen's Environment Manager, Kit Richards is contributing information and data in this area. The SLIMF rules may also make it easier for smaller clients to join and for existing small clients to meet the required standards.

On the chemicals front Kit has been instrumental in putting together the framework of research around FSC chemicals compliance, as "Theme Leader" for the Forest Industry Future Forests Research Environment Theme. Representing this position and PF Olsen as a major FSC certified company he has also been directly involved in the chemicals working group.

[1] Environmental Non-Government Organisations