Plantation forestry is an important industry for New Zealand. It is widespread across the country with plantings of over 1,000 hectares in 60 districts. Local authority plans set the framework for establishing and managing plantation forestry in New Zealand. Provisions in plans are relevant to the environments, landscapes and values of the district or region in which they are developed. However, the forestry sector has found that operating across different districts and regions creates uncertainty for companies due to the variability of rules between plans.
The New Zealand Forest Owners Association (NZFOA) is seeking a nationally consistent framework for plantation forestry to better facilitate forestry establishment and operations, and the Ministry for the Environment has been scoping how this could be achieved. A number of policy advisory groups contributed to this work. Membership of these groups was drawn from local government, central government and the forestry sector, among others.
The scoping exercise involved reviewing a sample of regional council and territorial authority plans in relation to their plantation forestry provisions in order to understand the extent of the issue. The main findings of the review were that:
- there is variability in the way regional and district plans control forestry (eg, some councils have no rules for plantation forestry activities, while others have sophisticated rules to manage the effects on the environment of those activities)
- thresholds for when a resource consent is required for plantation forestry activities vary between regions and districts.
It should be noted here that some variation in plan provisions is necessary due to the variation in soils, water bodies, biodiversity and climatic conditions between regions and districts.
The problem addressed by this proposal
The main problem identified in this discussion document is inconsistency in the management framework for plantation forestry. This can result in:
- re-litigation of the same issues across the country
- inconsistent treatment of forestry operations
- operational inefficiency
- investment uncertainty.
- The policy objective of the proposal is:
To provide a more consistent and appropriate plantation forestry management framework, while facilitating the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
The proposed option
The proposed option for meeting the above objective is a national environmental standard for standardising rules relating to plantation forestry. The proposed standard would require local authorities to control plantation forestry activities in a more consistent manner, while retaining local and regional input in some circumstances.
This will be achieved by allocating an activity status to certain activities (permitted through to non-complying activities), while allowing local authorities to be more stringent where local variation is necessary. In these instances, local authorities will be able to use their judgement about what level of control is necessary.
Costs and benefits
A preliminary assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed national environmental standard has been prepared by independent consultants. The cost–benefit analysis shows that while the site-specific impacts of the standard cannot be quantified at this preliminary stage, the nationwide impacts of the standard are expected to be positive.
The Ministry for the Environment welcomes public feedback on the proposal through public submissions. Anyone can make a submission on the proposed standard.
Submissions must be received by the Ministry for the Environment no later than 5.00 pm Monday 18 October 2010. Further details on making a submission are included in section 7.