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Prosecution and fine of $57,000 demonstrates forest owners must meet their obligations to the environment

New Zealand’s key forest industry associations are supporting penalties imposed in the District Court against Bay of Plenty forest owner Whitikau Holdings and two harvesting contractors. The companies pleaded guilty to charges laid under the Resource Management Act for damaging two stream beds near Opotiki in a logging operation which began in 2015. Whitikau Holdings was fined NZ$57,000 and the logging companies NZ$4,000 and NZ$3,000 respectively.

Photo   - Bay Of Plenty Regional Council

Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir is pointing to the judge’s comments that the action of the forest owner was ‘extremely reckless and bordered on deliberate’. “From the facts as I understand them, this is not a case where a storm overwhelmed a logging site, but where the offenders just didn’t care about the clear rules on how to avoid damaging river courses, ignored abatement notices and produced a consequence which could take a decade to come right. They got what they deserved. They were probably lucky to avoid jail.” 

The Farm Forestry Association President Neil Cullen is echoing Peter Weir’s warning to errant harvesting operators. “This court decision highlights that there are forest owners and contractors out there who are ignoring best practice guides and directions from councils in order to try to save money.”  “The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association is hopeful the penalties in this case, and the clear provisions of the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry, will force such operators to change their approach and take a more responsible attitude when they are harvesting,” Neil Cullen says. 

The CEO of the Forest Industry Contractors Association, Prue Younger, says she is disappointed that some are putting the industry into disrepute. “With the recent introduction of Contractor Certification and the new National Environmental Standard coming into play, the industry is clearly standing behind best practice.”  

Peter Weir stated that that National Environmental Standard C (that came into force on the 1st May) raises the environmental standards for all forest operations.  “The NES represents the industry’s commitment to a set of legislative rules designed to reduce the effect of forestry earthworks, harvesting and other activities on the environment, including an effective reduction of planting for harvest on the most unstable terrain in New Zealand, now Red Zoned”.  “Compliance with the NES won’t be a big stretch for larger companies with robust environmental systems, but it will require smaller players to set up to meet its requirements. The NES won’t stop the cowboy operators who, through carelessness, ruin streams, wetlands and our industry reputation. But it will mean that councils have a consistent rule-set and a clear mandate to protect the environment. Parts of the NES will become a template for other industries,” Peter Weir says.

Story Source:Friday Offcuts