Summary of the National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry

23 Aug 2017 |

The Governor-General has by Order in Council announced the Resource Management (National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations), to come into force on 1 May 2018 (the operative date). 

The Regulations control how regional councils and territorial authorities (Councils) treat a suite of forestry related activities, in a manner that is nationally consistent. The Regulations apply to afforestation; pruning and thinning to waste; earthworks, river crossings; forestry quarrying; harvesting; mechanical land preparation; replanting; ancillary activities relating to slash traps and indigenous and non-indigenous vegetation clearance; and discharges, disturbances, diversions, noise, dust, indigenous bird nesting, and fuel storage and refuelling.  The Regulations do not apply to vegetation clearance that is carried out before afforestation.

 

Effect of the regulations

The Regulations set out definitions to be applied nationally, and a suite of rules and standards that will apply nationally.  The Regulations make a range of activities permitted, if specified standards are met.  District and Regional Plans may be more stringent than the Regulations, but only in limited circumstances.[1]

The regulations have also introduced the Erosion Susceptibility Classification (ESC) system which will categorise zones of activity status as green, yellow, red or orange depending on the erosion risk from plantation forestry activities on the site, and have introduced the wilding tree risk calculator which rates the risk of wilding spread from re-planting.  There is currently an online database to guide assessments, and by 2018 there is intended to be an online tool to assess the ESC of land.[2]

If any forestry activity is currently being carried out under a resource consent, the Regulations do not prohibit continuation of existing consents.  However if the forestry activity is permitted under the Regulations, it is worthwhile operators comparing their resource consent with the permitted framework and determining whether it is possible or beneficial to surrender consents in favour of operating under the new NES regime.

If any forestry activity is currently being carried out as a permitted activity under any district or regional plan, the ability to continue operating will need to be reviewed.  For activities controlled by the district plan, generally if the activity was previously permitted, then the “existing use rights” mean compliance with the new NES is not required (subject to conditions, such as ensuring there is no discontinuance of the existing activity).  For activities controlled by the regional plan, existing permitted activities are only authorised for an interim period once the NES takes effect, and then compliance with the new regime will be required.

Some activities will now require management plans with specific information in order for the activity to be permitted under the Regulations.  Operators with existing management plans may need to review these before the operative date to ensure the plans comply with the Regulations.  A summary of what is required in these plans, and what activities they apply to is set out in more detail below.

 

Status of activities – permitted

The NES provides that a variety of forestry activities will be permitted, and won’t require resource consent, if they comply with specified conditions.  The activities include afforestation, pruning and thinning to waste, earthworks, river crossings, forestry quarrying, harvesting, mechanical land preparation and replanting.

The conditions that must be met for these activities to remain permitted include standards to avoid, remedy or mitigate environmental effects; requirements for compliance with management plans for higher risk activities; and the use of tools for risk assessment regarding erosion, wilding trees and fish spawning.  A summary of the conditions that must be met is set out below. Detailed requirements for compliance are set out in the Regulations.

Afforestation

To carry out afforestation as a permitted activity, notice must be given to the relevant council; wilding tree risk must be calculated and afforestation controlled accordingly; it must not occur within a significant natural area or an outstanding natural feature or landscape or within a visual amenity landscape if rules in the relevant plan restrict plantation forestry activities; it must not occur within specific boundary setbacks.[3]  If these standards are not complied with, afforestation will require resource consent as a controlled[4] or restricted discretionary activity.[5]

Pruning and thinning to waste

To carry out pruning or thinning as a permitted activity, slash must not be deposited into a water body, or if this cannot be complied with, slash must be removed if safe to do so to avoid specified adverse effects.[6]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent as a controlled activity.[7]

Earthworks

Earthworks are permitted provided they are in the appropriate zone for the land slope; notice must be given to the relevant Council; sediment originating from earthworks must be adequately managed; a forestry earthworks management plan is required for earthworks meeting specific thresholds; earthworks in some zones must be stabilised; they must comply with setbacks and requirements for fill and spoil; all disturbed  and exposed soil must be stabilised or contained to minimise sediment entering water;  and forestry roads, tracks and landings must be adequately managed and aligned.[8]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent as a controlled,[9] or restricted discretionary activity.[10]

River crossings

Constructing, using, maintaining or removing a river crossing is permitted provided it complies with specific conditions depending on the class of river crossing; notice must be given to the relevant regional council; there must not be effects on other structures and users; fish passage must be provided for; the crossing must not induce erosion or sediment discharge; it must be maintained and be located appropriately; the activity must not discharge contaminants into the river or deposit organic matter; and flood flow calculations must be recorded.[11]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent for the activity as a controlled,[12] restricted discretionary[13] or discretionary activity.[14]

Forest quarrying

Forest quarrying (for formation of forest roads and infrastructure) is a permitted activity provided the activity is in the appropriate zone; notice must be given to the relevant regional council; visibility is within specified requirements; boundary setbacks are complied with; excavated overburden must be appropriately deposited, stabilised and restored; sediment and stormwater control measures must be put in place; the activity must have adequate traffic management procedures in place; consideration must be given to aquifers; and a detailed quarry erosion and sediment management plan must be provided.[15]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent for the activity as a controlled[16] or restricted discretionary activity.[17]

Harvesting

Harvesting is a permitted activity if notice is given to the relevant councils; sediment is appropriately managed; a harvest plan must be prepared; ground disturbance must be controlled; the activity must minimise disturbance tor margins of water bodies and the coastal marine area; and slash and debris must be managed.[18]   Failure to comply with this will require resource consent for the activity as a controlled[19] or restricted discretionary activity.[20]

This activity is permitted provided you comply with methods, sediment management, and setbacks.[21]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent for the activity as a restricted discretionary activity.[22]

Replanting

Replanting is permitted if setbacks and wilding tree risk rules are complied with.[23]  Failure to comply with this will require resource consent as a controlled activity if the only non-compliance is that the re-planting occurs in a red zone,[24] or resource consent as a restricted discretionary activity if the replanting is in any area closer than the stump line to a significant natural area and is does not comply with other wilding tree risk constraints.[25]

Ancillary activities

The regulations also provide restrictions for a number of ancillary activities including slash traps, and indigenous and non-indigenous vegetation clearance.[26]

General provisions

The general provisions regulate discharges, disturbances and diversions of waterways; noise and vibration associated with forestry; the discharge of dust to air; and fuel storage and refuelling.[27]

 

Monitoring permitted activities

The Regulations include the ability for local authorities to charge for monitoring permitted activities for earthworks, river crossings, forestry quarrying and harvesting.[28]

Requirements for management plan preparation

Some activities will now require preparation of management plans in order for the activity to be permitted.  Management plans will be required to allow earthworks as a permitted activity,[29] forestry quarrying as a permitted activity,[30] or harvesting as a permitted activity.[31]

Schedule 3 of the Regulations set out the requirements for a forestry earthworks management plan or a harvest plan, which includes personal and property details, a map with relevant overlays, and any water and other on-site areas.[32] A forestry earthworks management plan will also identify the scope of and purpose of the earthworks, the anticipated construction time, a clear description of the management practices, and specific earthworks management measures.[33]  A harvest plan will also identify the harvesting method and equipment, details of the planned harvesting activity, and the management practices that will be used to avoid, remedy or mitigate certain risks.[34]

Schedule 4 of the Regulations sets out the requirements for quarry erosion and sediment management plans.  The plan must include personal and property details, a map with relevant overlays, identification of water and on-site risk areas, a description of management practices that will be used to avoid remedy or mitigate risks, and details of the timing of works, any erosion and sediment control measures, maintenance and monitoring procedures, heavy rainfall response and contingency measures, how the quarry will be restored when the activity ceases and any corrective action processes.[35]

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry, please contact our specialist Resource Management Team.

PDF version: Summary of NES for Plantation Forestry

 

 

[1] Regulation 6: When necessary to give effect to a freshwater objective under NPS Freshwater Management, specified policies of the NZ Coastal Policy Statement, for protection of ONF or ONL or significant natural areas, for managing activities in specified erosion prone areas, geothermal areas, in specified vicinity of drinking water

[2] http://www.mpi.govt.nz/growing-and-producing/forestry/overview/
national-environmental-standards-for-plantation-forestry/erosion-susceptibility-classification/

[3] Regulation 9 to 14.

[4] Regulation 15.

[5] Regulation 16 and 17.

[6] Regulation 19 and 20.

[7] Regulation 21.

[8] Regulation 23 to 33.

[9] Regulation 34.

[10] Regulation 35.

[11] Regulation 37 to 46.

[12] Regulation 47.

[13] Regulation 48.

[14] Regulation 49.

[15] Regulation 51 to 59.

[16] Regulation 60.

[17] Regulation 61.

[18] Regulation 63 to 69.

[19] Regulation 70.

[20] Regulation 71.

[21] Regulation 73 and 74.

[22] Regulation 75.

[23] Regulation 77 and 78.

[24] Regulation 80, as defined by the ESC.

[25] Regulation 81.

[26] Subpart 9 of the Regulations.

[27] Subpart 10 of the Regulations.

[28] Regulation 106.

[29] Regulation 27 requires a forestry earthworks management plan to be prepared.

[30] Regulation 59 requires a quarry erosion and sediment management plan to be prepared.

[31] Regulation 66 requires a harvest plan to be prepared.

[32] Clauses 1 to 3 of Schedule 3 of the Regulations.

[33] Clause 4 of Schedule 3 of the Regulations.

[34] Clause 5 of Schedule 3 of the Regulations.

[35] Clauses 1 to 5 of Schedule 4 of the Regulations.