FSC Addresses Audit Breaches After NZ Forest Slash Disasters

A new report, produced by ASI, found that FSC certification was issued to NZ East Coast Forest Managers, "despite compelling evidence" of problems

Wed 06 Mar 24


One of the world’s largest forest certification schemes considered the “gold standard” for certification, has vowed to improve auditing practices after multiple instances of forest slash on NZ’s East Coast.

Last week, Wood Central revealed that a report commissioned by the FSC-aligned ASI published a daming report, which identified “major non-conformities” in how NZ forests are managed before alleging that forests on the country’s east coast granted FSC certification to Ernslaw One and PF Olsen despite “compelling evidence” of problems.

The report came after ASI investigated the auditing practices of Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) and Preferred by Nature – which are both certified to conduct audits against both FSC and PEFC in New Zealand.  

FSC confirmed that the report identified four significant non-conformances by SGS – just one shy of the promot to suspend the certification body, which it said was “uncommon.”

Four years after being forced to pay compensation for slash damage, one of New Zealand’s biggest forestry companies is trying to atone for it happening again by funding cleanups – But calls are growing to increase the fines on companies responsible – footage courtesy of @newshubnz.

In a statement provided to RNZ yesterday, FSC ANZ said it would “invite ASI and FSC auditors that operate in New Zealand to a “calibration meeting,” to address the findings before stressing that ASI determined that that the auditing assessed was “a quality where a suspension was not warranted.”

 “While we prefer no non-conformities to be served, we also find it positive that the number of non-conformities did not reach the level where a suspension could be considered.”

It said the certification bodies are now required to identify the root cause of the problems that led to the non-conformities and implement measures to address these causes.

“Given the increased scrutiny the certification bodies will be under from ASI and the process that’s in place to ensure they address the root causes of the non-conformities, we have full confidence that auditing practices will be brought into conformity – and if not, that the certification body will be suspended/terminated. Either way, auditing practices in the Gisborne region will improve.”

Up to 400,000m3 of slash from forests in the Uawa/Tolaga Bay region were washed down hills, clogged rivers, and damaged properties – with 47,000m3 of the woody debris washed up on Uawa Beach after the 2018 floods, which, along with Cyclone Gabrielle, led the NZ government to introduce tight laws for forest slash.

Farmers in flood-hit Tolaga Bay want forestry companies to put up $100m to help clean the damage done to their stock and properties by runaway slash. They’re also considering legal action – footage courtesy of @RNZVideo.

Forestry slash has been described as “an environmental crisis in the making,” with the damage from Gabrielle so severe that the former Hipkins Government published a groundbreaking “Outrage to Optimism” report, pushing for a temporary cessation of large-scale logging, a concerning situation requiring government attention. 

Part of the Oregon Group, owned by the Malaysian-based Tiong family, Ernslaw One also has a subsidiary company and processing arm, Winstone Pulp International, which manufactures lumber and pulp.

Wood Central understands that the investigation has not impacted the Winstone Pulp International business, which has an FSC’ chain of custody’ certification.

In December 2022, Ernslaw One was convicted of damage arising from slash and ordered to pay NZ $225,000 for “serious forestry offending related to a storm event in Uawa/Tolaga Bay in June 2018.”


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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