National Environmental Standard for Forestry Announced

Announcement On Friday 3rd September, the Government released discussion documents to start the public consultation process that industry hopes will lead to the introduction of a "National Environmental Standard (NES) for Forestry".

What was wrong with the current system?

Currently in New Zealand, under the Resource Management Act (RMA), forestry is subject to highly variable levels of regulation and interpretation amongst the various District Councils and between District Councils and Regional Councils. Furthermore, the constant stream of plan changes under the RMA necessitates frequent and expensive submissions/consultation from industry, often ending up in re-litigation of issues that have already been covered in other areas. In many cases the final formats of rules are similar in substance but differ in the "fine print", creating confusion, cost and impedance to the creation of robust management support systems.

What is an NES and how does it work?

A national environmental standard is a mechanism allowed for under the RMA to achieve standardised guidance throughout the country in relation to certain rules or activities that are performed routinely.

The purpose of the proposed NES is to establish a set of standardised but risk-based permitted activity rules that enable many routine forestry activities to be undertaken without resource consents provided that the permitted conditions are meet. The rules will apply across the country and District and Regional Councils will be required to adopt them.

Where operations involve higher risks some form of consenting will still be required though the process will be simplified. In some instances, such as new planting or aerial spraying, processing through the local council's planning rules may still be required.

Another perceived advantage is that the rules in the NES will lend themselves to being supported by national science-based frameworks in situations such as defining erosion hazard and possibly river classifications.

Through Future Forests Research, PF Olsen is contributing to the development of such tools.

Standards will not be lowered

The NES is not about lowering operating standards. In fact some regions of the country may have to operate to higher levels than in the past.

The primary objective of the NES is to achieve greater consistency of well-defined standards expected from society at much lower overhead cost. Enforcement action will still be possible should the permitted standards not be met.

More information

Whilst PF Olsen will represent the interests of our clients in the process, we also suggest our clients become informed and get involved. This proposed legislation could be one of the most significant changes to affect your interests in this industry for many years.

Click here for a copy of the proposed NES:

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