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Progress on National Environmental Standard

Many forest owners will be interested in the progress of a National Environmental Standard (NES) for plantation forestry in New Zealand. The NES aims to achieve improved consistency for the management of plantation forests under the RMA.

Details of progress have been published in the third newsletter to stakeholders on this issue recently published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). See MPI Resource Planning. Following is a summary update:

  • There have been a number of meetings with key stakeholder groups such as Regional and District Councils, the Forest Owner's Association, the Institute of Forestry and the Farm Forestry Association; others are to follow. The meetings are to provide a forum for information sharing and feedback on the developments.
  • The basic principles of the rules that would govern the various forestry activities have been agreed by the Working Group and these draft rules will now be reviewed by other parties to check for suitability.
  • A review of the cost/benefit analysis has been completed and is being finalised. Whilst the ratio appears favourable, it is generally recognised that this type of analysis does not recognise all the environmental benefits in monetary terms. These will be addressed through additional qualitative evaluations.
  • Development and refinements of tools to facilitate a standardised approach to managing forestry's environmental risks. This work includes:
    • further refinements to the national erosion susceptibility layer that underpins the rationale for most of the proposed rules
    • the development of a national fish spawning calendar that will encompass the whole country
    • adoption of the NIWA models to predict flood return volumes for use in culvert sizing.

PF Olsen's Environment Manager, Kit Richards, who is on the MPI working group, says that aside from the hoped-for direct benefits from the NES, the potential for the adoption of some universal tools and methodologies is also an opportunity for New Zealand. Too often spatial tools, models and other decision assisting technologies have been produced in a regionalised or ad-hoc fashion, limiting their uptake and fuelling fragmented rule-making. They are also often difficult and/or costly to maintain or update because the pool of users, beneficiaries or developers is small.

The degree of cooperation and cohesion that has also been apparent to date amongst the parties is also positive. Perhaps this process will also reveal other benefits that can arise from a more integrated and collaborative approach to rule-making.

National Policy Statement (water)

Following on from the release of the National Policy Statement (NPS) on water, requiring all regional Councils to 'give effect to…' its policies, a significant number of Councils are now involved in reviewing their plans in respect of water quality targets and standards. PF Olsen Environment Manager, Kit Richards, says these processes are taking various forms depending upon the Councils involved. While Otago and Canterbury are well advanced/completed, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Northland and Gisborne regions are either just starting or in full swing.

These processes are very time consuming and difficult to engage in for an extensive industry such as forestry. Then there are the sub-processes such as the one under way in the Hauraki Gulf catchment that will ultimately feed back into rules affecting the use of land and water. However Kit urges forest owners and forest managers to get involved in any processes within their regions to ensure their voice is heard. In most parts of the country the themes are going to be very similar, with much of the action and discussion being around the impacts of intensive pastoral systems on water quality. However, the end point of all these processes is to develop rules and in many cases these rules affect land use. It is important that foresters are heard and that they ensure that the benefits that forests and forestry can provide to water and aquatic environments for most of the forestry lifecycle are not used as a cheap or free means to buffer or protect other sectors to the detriment of the forest owner's investment. We have reason to be concerned, as this has been the common and most popular approach so far.