National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forests

The Resource Management Act has always had the provision to create National Environmental Standards in situations where there were very standardised processes of land management with predictable environmental consequences. It was envisaged that regulation could be made more efficient through the imposition of one national set of rules rather that different sets of rules in every council district and region.

An NES for plantation forests was one such situation and after a process involving several years the NESPF has passed into law.

The Rules of the NES will come into force on the 01st May 2018.

Up until that date there is to be an implementation and transitional period during which industry practitioners and Council planners and compliance staff can get organised to manage this new set of rules.

The NESPF has set about defining the rules that govern forestry under the RMA based on clearly defined risk. As a result, most of the rules under the NES are driven by an underlying assessment of risk related to land stability. This assessment has been formulated into a national map-based classification called the Erosion Susceptibility Classification (ESC).

There are four susceptibility classes, namely:

  1. low – green zone
  2. moderate – yellow zone
  3. high – orange zone
  4. very high – red zone.

Under the NES the rules get increasingly strict as operations progress onto higher risk zones. In many cases, the rules are less stringent than before in lower risk landscapes and very similar to current rules in high risk - orange zone landscapes.

However, in red zone terrain, the rules are tighter than anywhere previously in recognition of the fact that the industry in general is facing difficulties in these types of areas. These rules restrict planting in such areas unless great care is taken in planning the proposed afforestation, especially where it is to be in species and under management regimes that imply clear-fell harvesting.

If you are a PF Olsen client, we will be in contact with you outlining the changed regime and details of its implications. We will also be able to assist you with any queries or concerns you have and assist you integrating the new rules into the management of your forest or woodlot.

The important message is that forest and landowners with forestry operations being conducted on their land will be required to ensure that those implementing operations are conversant with the NES and that they comply with the NES.