FSC Sweep: Second NZ Forest Certificate Revoked in Weeks!

Up to 130,000 hectares of FSC certified forests have been removed from New Zealand since February.

Fri 19 Apr 24


One of New Zealand’s largest plantation forests has lost it’s “gold standard” after Aratu Forests’ FSC certification was withdrawn.

As reported in the Gisborne Herald, a local New Zealand newspaper, the Swiss certification body Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) withdrew the certificate on March 28, just weeks after suspending Ernslaw One, which removed 95,000 hectares of FSC forest from the New Zealand supply chain.

Wood Central understands that Aratu Forests has more than 27,000 hectares of Radiata Pine on more than 35,000 hectares of freehold.

The Gisborne Herald reported that Aratu Forests CEO Neil Woods declined to comment on the suspension but said the company was working towards getting accredited again.

In 2020, Aratu Forests maintained its FSC qualification after copping a $379,500 fine from the Gisborne District Council for discharging contaminants of forestry waste and silt, which entered into waterways after a series of massive storms caused millions of dollars worth of damage. 

The event, however, did not occur under Aratu Forest’s watch but was related to an event in 2018 under the previous ownership of Hikurangi Forest Farms (HFF), which sold the plantations to Aratu’s owner in 2019. 

In recent months, SGS has been under increased scrutiny. Last month, a report produced by FSC-aligned ASI found that the certification body issued FSC certification to forest growers on NZ’s East Coast “despite compelling evidence of problems.”

At the time, FSC Australia and New Zealand confirmed that the report identified four significant non-conformances by SGS—just one shy of the threshold to suspend the certification body, which FSC said was “uncommon.”

Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti (MTT), a Gisborne group pushing for land-use rule changes, has welcomed FSC and SGS’s crackdown. 

“We are happy to hear they are coming to look at the audits of Aratu Forests in the Ūawa catchment area,” Mere Tamanui, a spokesperson for MTT, said, adding that, since 2018, their whānau had lacked access to cultural practices at their kura at Mangatokerau River.

“We can no longer access our Olympic pools (what the community calls their water holes), let alone undertake other culturally significant activities and connections.”

“No cultural impact assessment was done,” Ms Tamanui said, adding that “the cost to our kura and Mangatunatanga (local knowledge, whakapapa, lifestyle and essence of the land) has been huge..our school doesn’t have access to intergenerational knowledge handed down.”

She told the Gisborne Herald that the community is “in a time of mourning” and stressed that a significant part of land management should protect cultural practices. 

FSC is one of two globally recognised forest certification systems. The other is PEFC, with both certifications used to sell logs on the global market, including China, which is the destination for 60% of New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar log market. Both FSC and PEFC play a crucial role in adding value to forests and promoting certified sustainable forest management practices in global markets.


  • Wood Central

    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.


Related Articles