Local councils will have more power to decide where new commercial forests – including carbon forests – are located, while forest owners will have to remove slash, Environment Minister David Parker has announced.
The new national standards give councils greater control over commercial forestry, including clear rules on harvesting practices and new requirements to remove slash from erosion-prone land, he said.
“Under the changes, non-indigenous forests planted for carbon sequestration will now be managed in the same way as plantation forests.”
Forestry Minister Peeni Henare said slash provisions have been tightened to reduce the risks of damage to downstream communities as experienced in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa during Cyclone Gabrielle.
“Under the new regulations, slash longer than 2m, and with a large-end diameter of more than 10cm, must be removed after harvesting from erosion-prone land unless it is unsafe to do so. This is a minimum standard across the country, and councils can apply more stringent requirements if they choose.
“Where foresters are unable to meet these national standards, they will need to obtain resource consent, meaning councils consider the risks and impacts on a site-by-site basis,” he said.
Parker said councils will be able to have rules in their plans controlling where new commercial forests are located, developed in consultation with their communities.
“There has been a big increase in carbon forests since the forestry regulations were introduced in 2018. Carbon foresters will now need to meet the same environmental standards as plantation foresters.
“There are also new provisions for managing wilding tree spread to help better control these species.”
The changes follow consultation on changes to environmental standards for plantation forestry. The need for this was highlighted by the Ministerial Inquiry into Land Uses in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa released in May this year.
The regulations, to be gazetted this week, will be known as the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry (previously the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry), to reflect the inclusion of carbon forests.
The changes come into force from November 2 this year. The Ministry for the Environment and councils will work together to implement the changes, while Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service is developing risk assessment and management tools for landowners and councils.