New Proposed Standards for Forestry
Government has been working on the idea of a forestry national environmental standard (NES) for some time and has been consulting with a range of parties. A NES is a regulation that prescribes technical standards that are imported into RMA plans. This means that where existing plans are inconsistent with the NES those plan rules will change.
A consultation document has now been circulated by Environment Minister Hon Nick Smith and Associate Primary Industries Minister Hon Jo Goodhew and is open for submission until 11 August. Once submissions are made government officials will make amendments to the proposed regulation, cabinet will then have to approve the NES. There is no hearing process such as for primary legislation at select committee.
Schedule 3 of the consultation document sets out the draft rules of the proposed NES, and matters to which councils may apply more stringent rules than those in the proposed NES. Council will only be able to place more stringent rules than those in the NES in specified circumstances that include Outstanding Natural Landscapes and consistency with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management’s objectives. The ability for councils to make more stringent rules is important because the proposed NES is relatively permissive. Note that the NES is not yet drafted.
The primary aim of the proposed NES is to simplify and standardise resource management requirements for plantation forestry in place of the current “complex and confusing” system with “thousands of different rules” across different regions and councils, according to Minister Smith.
The NES will only apply to “plantation forestry” and this is proposed to be defined as:
- At least 1 hectare of forest cover of forest species that has been planted and has been, or will be harvested;
- Including all associated internal infrastructure; but
- Not including:
- a shelter belt of forest species, where the tree crown cover has, or is likely to have, an average width of less than 30 metres;
- forest species in urban areas;
- nurseries and seed orchards;
fruit and nut crops;
- long-term ecological restoration planting of forest species;
- willows and poplars space planted for soil conservation purposes.
The proposal introduces technical standards for plantation forestry activities and includes a draft set of rules for each of the eight core plantation forestry activities: afforestation; pruning and thinning-to-waste; earthworks; river crossings; forestry quarrying; harvesting; mechanical land preparation; and replanting. Most of these activities are permitted subject to meeting specified conditions. An example of a condition that has to be complied with for an activity to be permitted is the need for an erosion and sediment control plan for any earthworks. In addition stormwater and sediment control measures must be installed and maintained. These conditions do not contain many specific requirements.
Three ‘risk assessment’ tools are used in order to take account of local environmental conditions:
Erosion Susceptibility Classification
This is used to classify the risk of erosion on land by classifying land into four different categories based on riskiness. In low risk areas, forestry will be permitted, where in contrast, high risk areas forestry will have tighter controls and require consent. Landowners must understand which category applies to their land to determine whether a consent is needed for the activity undertaken.
Fish Spawning Indicator
NIWA produced a spawning report, which then developed the indicator, which will inform the rules of the proposed NES for landowners and council to manage disturbance during high spawning periods. When there is a high risk of habitat disturbance, greater control is required. This will be monitored through an online mapping tool in order for landowners to easily identify peak spawning times and, if needed, specific periods where consent is required.
Wilding Spread Risk Indicator
This is in relation to the natural and unintended spread of conifers negatively effecting environmental factors. The draft rules use this existing indicator tool to identify the risks of wilding spread, and inform when consent is required. Councils and landowners will be required to apply the calculator to a site when considering afforestation, with certain requirements and considerations. The calculator and ‘good practice guidelines’ are available on the MPI website.
Submissions on the consultation document must be received by 5pm 11 August 2015.
If progressed, the Ministers intend the NES to come into force in 2016.
Further information is provided at: http://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/consultations/proposed-national-environmental-standard-for-plantation-forestry/
Please contact the Resource Management team if you need further advice or assistance with drafting a submission.