The NZ Government is poised to give final sign-off on tighter standards to combat forestry slash and will target new exotic plantings.
As reported by RNZ on Sunday, the changes to the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) will be tabled to the ministers in the Executive Council tomorrow.
Once approved, the new standard could be fully gazetted and introduced by Thursday this week.
In June, Wood Central reported that the government was looking to introduce new rules to tighten farm-to-forestry conversions, giving communities greater control of what is planted and where.
It gives local councils full autonomy to decide what land could be used for pine forests under the Resource Management Act.
It comes in the wake of growing criticism that too much productive farmland was being converted into forestry to gain carbon credits.
“These changes are about getting the right tree in the right place by seeing fewer pine forests planted on farmland and more on less productive land,” Forestry Minister Peeni Henare said.
In April, Wood Central reported that New Zealand forestry was at a crossroads following the release of the ‘Outrage to Optimism’ report led by ex-National Cabinet Minister Hekia Parata and collaborators Matthew McCloy and Dave Brash.
Wood Central reported that the sound of trees snapping “was like the loudest gunshots you’ve ever heard” as Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through forests on New Zealand’s central North Island in February.
According to the Guardian, forestry slash may have contributed to the devastation unleashed on the valleys of Hawkes Bay and Tairāwhiti – with the two areas accounting for nine of the 11 deaths confirmed nationwide.
The government has said the changes will mean more power to local communities, with fewer pines planted on farmland and more on highly erosion-prone land.
According to NZ Forestry Minister Henare, residents are anxious about the scale of exotic forestry and its impact on communities and the environment.
Under the new standards, forestry conversions would have to have fire breaks, and there would be rules on planting next to rivers, lakes and wetlands.
“Amendments will see the environmental effects of permanent pine forests being managed the same way as plantation forests,” it said in June.
At the start of the year, before Gabrielle, a review had found the 2018 rules for managing slash were “fit for purpose” and needed only a tweak.
That has now been upended with the new standards expected to challenge NZ forest markets, which have already been impacted by uncertainty over the ETS.
The NZ Government is in election mode, with the national election less than two weeks away – and is a referendum on PM Hipkins’s leadership after replacing Jacinta Ardern in January.
Minister Henare noted that the latest changes deliver on the country’s 2020 election commitment to tighten rules on farm-to-forestry conversions by giving communities greater control over the planting of forests.