National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) aim to improve the way New Zealand manages the environmental effects of plantation forestry across New Zealand. Find out about the proposed changes and our progress so far.

Managing forests under the RMA

Councils regulate the environmental effects of natural resource use in their local areas under the Resource Management Act (RMA). This means the environmental effects of plantation forestry are managed under individual regional and district plans. As a result, the rules vary between regions.

There will always be some variation due to differences in local environments and community priorities. However, some of the rule variations are not necessary. These can often increase costs and create uncertainty for the plantation forestry sector. For example, the planning rules can change several times during the lifetime of a plantation forest. Some larger forests straddle council boundaries and can be subject to separate sets of rules on how they may operate.

The variation in the planning rules may also lead to differing environmental outcomes. For example, not all plans have rules to protect spawning fish from the impact of neighbouring forestry blocks.

Nationally consistent rules

The proposed NES-PF will provide nationally consistent rules that remove unwarranted variation between councils’ RMA rules for plantation forestry. NES-PF will establish rules under which plantation forestry activities are permitted – where appropriate – and where there is unlikely to be any significant adverse effect on the environment.

Regional and district councils will still be able to manage the environmental risks or impacts of forestry through stricter rules. These will apply in unique and sensitive environments such as heritage and wāhi tapu sites, and significant natural areas like estuaries and freshwater bodies.

The NES-PF proposes rules for 8 plantation forestry activities that can have an environmental impact:

  • afforestation
  • pruning and thinning-to-waste
  • earthworks
  • river crossings
  • forestry quarrying
  • harvesting
  • mechanical land preparation
  • replanting.

The rules will require foresters to meet best-practice forestry standards in carrying out their operations. The proposed standards will also ensure that specific environmental issues such as wilding pines, protecting spawning fish and erosion are regulated and better managed.

As a result, the NES-PF should ensure more consistent environmental outcomes from forestry activities and provide more certainty for foresters about what they can and cannot do in their management of plantation forests.

Next steps

Our timetable for the NES-PF is:

Development of guidance material and tools with stakeholders October 2016 to May 2017
Gazettal of regulation Mid-2017
Commencement Late 2017 to early 2018

Find out more


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