National Environmental and National FSC Standard

The Ministry for the Environment's initial cost/benefit analysis (CBA) was not favourable to implementation of a National Environmental Standard (NES). This has strengthened the forestry sector's resolve to ensure resolution of some outstanding issues that are diluting the potential benefits to the forest industry.

The forestry sector is still generally positive toward the implementation of an NES. The current start of District and Regional Plan revisions is highlighting the enormous cost and time overhead involved in a continuation of the status quo with little environmental benefit [i.e. repetition of effort across numerous authorities and ultimately inconsistency of application and complexity of compliance].

Significant progress has also been made on developing a New Zealand FSC National Standard. It was important to get a National Standard that will "interpret" the ever evolving FSC generic International Standards to reflect the more specific situations for NZ plantation management.

The Standard has not yet been approved because of one main issue – the conversion of reverted scrublands on Maori land on the East Coast. This is a very sensitive issue not only for NZ environmental groups and Maori but also for FSC International as it involves direct conflict between perceived environmental bottom lines and indigenous people's rights. There seems to be some goodwill, however, to find a way through.

There has been an acceptance by NZ forest owners, of the constraint that FSC Certified forests must have the equivalent of 10% of the planted area in reserves, on an Ecological District (ED) basis. This is a problem as many forest owners have in excess of 10% reserves in total but individual forests, in any given ED, may be deficient. This is the case in PF Olsen's Group Scheme and is exacerbated where forests are in largely historically pastoral landscapes. Alternative pathways are provided to meet shortfalls under a concept of "equivalent ecological effort" and we will have to develop a formula to apply to those forests that are affected. This may require some specifically tagged projects and associated annual expenditure that, although probably small in quantum, may create an administrative and, or, equity problem in how it is handled.

There is increasing focus (International and National Standards) in more formally structured programmes for pest management and ecological management. Our systems are already well-developed to provide good foundations for this but more refinement in the next levels is required.

The development of the Environmental and FSC National Standards, if put together sensibly and realistically, will provide a more efficient framework for developing local policy and greater consistency and clarity under which land users and land use managers can operate. PF Olsen see this as a worthy goal and is committed to seeing it come to fruition.