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7 NOVEMBER 2022 – UPDATE
During 2022, we received higher than usual numbers of applications to enter land into the ETS. This may cause delays in processing requests for emissions rulings.
About emissions rulings
An emissions ruling is a formal decision on how ETS rules apply. It is a conclusive answer for a specific situation.
If you apply, the emissions ruling is for the person, organisation, or group that requested it. Rulings are not attached to the land. For example, you might have an emissions ruling for land that you then sell. The new owner could use the ruling to inform a decision, but they could not rely on the ruling as conclusive evidence. This is because they did not apply for it.
Emissions rulings apply from the day that the ruling is made. Rulings may be subject to conditions, meaning a ruling will no longer be valid if the conditions are not met.
Note: An application for an emissions ruling is a request for a formal decision. We provide details about this on this web page. Emissions rulings are not designed to take the place of general enquiries about forestry in the ETS. You'll find our contact details for general enquiries at the end of this page.
Who can apply for an emissions ruling
Anyone can apply for an emissions ruling. However, we strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer or a forestry adviser if you are planning to apply.
This is because applications for a ruling need to be precise. We can only answer the question that you ask, so it's important that your wording is specific. A lawyer or forestry adviser can help ensure that your ruling request is phrased appropriately.
There are also certain situations when we can't make a ruling. We'll explain more about this later. For example, the information you submit with your application must show clearly what the facts of the situation are. We can't make a ruling if it would rely on a fact that is not clearly established. This is another reason why we recommend consulting a professional if you are thinking about applying for a ruling.
Appointing a representative to help you with tasks in the ETS
What emissions rulings can cover
There are a number of areas relating to forestry in the ETS where you can apply for a ruling. You can ask for a ruling on whether land meets the requirements to be eligible in the ETS. Common examples are:
- whether forest meets (or land you plan to plant as a forest would meet) the requirements to be eligible post-1989 forest land
- if you deforested certain land, whether you would be deforesting pre-1990 land under the ETS
- if you bought land and deforested it, would you be liable under the ETS to pay (surrender) New Zealand Units.
You can also ask for a ruling to find out how specific ETS regulations apply to your situation.
See section 107 of the Climate Change Response Act 2002 for when you may apply for an emissions ruling
Read more about forest land eligibility in the ETS
When we may not provide an emissions ruling
Sometimes we may not provide an emissions ruling. This only happens in specific situations that are stated in the legislation for the ETS.
We may not provide an emissions ruling if the request relates to:
- imposing or forgiving ETS penalties
- inquiries into the correctness of ETS returns or other information supplied to us
- debt recovery
- "matters of fact", where we'd have to assess facts outside the legislation.
We may also decide not to make a ruling if:
- the matter is being reviewed or appealed elsewhere, or is the subject of any other proceedings
- the fees for an earlier application for an emissions ruling were not paid
- we find that the application is frivolous or vexatious, for example if someone sent in an application where there is a clear time-wasting intent
- the ruling is about units that are already due to be paid (unless we receive the application for the ruling before the obligation to surrender units arises)
- we already made an assessment about the person, activity, and time period (unless we receive the application for the ruling before we made the assessment)
- the work involved in making the ruling would be so large that it would be unreasonable for us to attempt it.
If we decide not to make a ruling, we will contact you with a notice to let you know.
When applying, include all the relevant information
When we receive an application for an emissions ruling, we check to make sure we have enough information. If we find that you haven't provided all the information needed to make a ruling, we will send you:
- a notice to ask for more information
- a list of the information we have already received from you
- a list of other relevant information that we hold, such as satellite images.
You must provide the information we asked for within 20 working days or by the deadline given in the notice.
If there is only enough information to make a ruling on a part of the matter, we may make a ruling on that part only.
We may also be unable to make a ruling if there are any issues with the information supporting the application for a ruling. For example, if the ruling would depend on assumptions (such as about a future event).
Information that may not be sufficient to support a ruling request
- Blurred or low-resolution photos. If supplying ground photos or aerial images in a Word or PDF document, ensure they don't lose their resolution (become blurred).
- Photos with no identifiable or accompanying location information.
- Documents such as planting invoices that don't include a planting density or a location, such as an address or land title reference.
- Documents such as planting invoices that don’t match the planted area (such as different tree species or land area).
- Documents with no date or physical address.
- National mapping, such as 1:50,000 maps.
How to apply for an emissions ruling
You can apply for an emissions ruling application at any time. Use the form and include any other relevant information.
Apply for an emissions ruling for forestry [PDF, 294 KB]
Send your completed form and relevant information to firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also post your application to:
Emissions Trading Scheme
Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
Ministry for Primary Industries
PO Box 1127
Fees for emissions rulings
If you apply for an emissions ruling, you’ll be charged a fee for the first 4 hours of processing the application. If we need advice from other people or organisations to help inform a decision, you may also be charged the additional costs and expenses. We will give you an estimate of that cost before charging you.
Find out the current fees for applying for an emissions ruling
After we get your application
Once we receive your application, we will consider your request. We will:
- make sure the application is complete
- make sure your question is in one of the areas covered by emissions rulings
- review the information supplied with your application
- review any relevant information that we hold, such as satellite images, and provide these to you to give you a chance to comment
- let you know if we need more information
- consider your request and the information in context with the ETS rules set out in legislation.
Once we have carefully considered your ruling application, we will send you a notice to let you know the outcome. The notice will state whether we:
- reached a ruling on all matters in the application
- reached a ruling on the parts of the application where this is possible
- declined to make a ruling.
Some rulings will be subject to conditions. For example, a ruling may only apply if land is planted so that it will meet the ETS definition for eligible forest land.
Tell us if things change
You must let us know as soon as possible if something changes that is relevant to your application for an emissions ruling:
- while waiting for the outcome of an emissions ruling application
- after a ruling was made.
You must also let us know if you failed to meet the conditions of an emissions ruling.
When you inform us about this sort of change, you must also tell us the date you became aware of this. If you don't tell us about these changes, you may receive an infringement notice and fee.