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Changes to the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (now Commercial Forestry) – effective from 2nd November 2023

Date: 6th October 2023

The National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry (NES-CF), formerly the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF), are for managing the environmental effects of plantation and exotic continuous-cover forestry (sometimes called carbon forestry). A commercial forest is defined as an exotic continuous-cover forest, or an exotic or indigenous plantation forest.

Changes have been made to how commercial forestry is managed to give councils more power to decide where new forests are located. Exotic continuous-cover forests (carbon forests) are now managed in the same way as plantation forests. The changes improve the management of the effects of large-scale forestry on the environment and communities. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of new and existing exotic forests. The changes also ensure the regulations deliver the right type and scale of forests, in the right place. This is an action in the first Aotearoa Emissions Reduction Plan: https://environment.govt.nz/publications/aotearoa-new-zealands-first-emissions-reduction-plan/.

It means carbon foresters now have to comply to the same rules as plantation foresters including the use of the Wilding Pine Calculator https://www.mpi.govt.nz/forestry/national-environmental-standards-commercial-forestry/wilding-tree-risk-calculator/– this should help prevent new exotic forests going into high wilding risk areas (i.e., Score >11 requires a discretionary resource consent from the respective TA.)

The new timeline for giving notice to plant is up to 8 months prior to planting or a minimum of 20 working days.

The planter must now supply a working sheet to the respective Territorial Authority (TA) or Regional Council (RC) within that time frame showing how the wilding risk calculator score was derived  If this is challenged successfully then the planter would  have to apply for a discretionary resource consent – which very much puts the onus on the planter to get the notices in early and  to ensure that they are right first time to avoid costly delays.

Now replanting of a forest is also subject to the wilding risk calculator and TA/RC scrutiny which means that species or siting choices can be adjusted to ensure risks are minimised and by applying appropriate conditions.

Foresters are now only allowed to carry out low density harvesting (which leaves 75% of forest canopy intact in each harvest cycle) as a permitted activity. Any higher intensity harvesting would require applying for a resource consent to do so. Slash management has been introduced which will be aiming to reduce the risk of major offsite problems that have emerged over the last few years. These will not apply to wilding forests and their control because they are outside the definition of a planted exotic continuous cover forest.

Local Government has a big role in all of this. They can charge for monitoring which previously they were not. To quote: “The NES-CF gives councils more control over the location of new plantation and exotic continuous cover forests (afforestation). This means councils can introduce (if they choose) more stringent or lenient rules that reflect the views of their communities regarding new forests. If they choose to make new rules, they will need to go through the usual plan making processes, including public consultation. If councils have already made rules about exotic continuous-cover forests, they can keep those rules.”

To read more about this head to: https://environment.govt.nz/acts-and-regulations/regulations/national-environmental-standards-for-commercial-forestry/. If you just want to have a gander at the summary fact sheet, see below.

WPN submitted on the discussion document which informed the redesign of the NES-PF in August 2023. Our submission is below. The discussion document had a series of questions. WPN limited its responses to those questions which directly related to wilding pine management. You can read the full discussion document on the MPI website https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/57448-Proposals-to-redesign-the-permanent-forest-category-in-the-New-Zealand-Emissions-Trading-Scheme-NZ-ETS.

As you can imagine with complex matters such as the above it takes time for those undertaking the policy side of the work to read through all of the submissions, report back to their Ministries and work through the decision-making process to arrive at the end documents such as the NES-CF.

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