21 Jul 2015

Forestry environmental rules 'remove public input'

10:24 am on 21 July 2015

The Government's one-size-fits-all approach to planned new forestry rules fails to address critical points around environmental protection measures, officials at a meeting in Nelson have been told.

The National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry is launched

Photo: Supplied

Representatives from the Ministry for Primary Industries heard the concerns from land owners, environmental protection groups and council staff from Marlborough and Tasman at a public meeting last night on proposed national environmental standards on plantation forestry.

Motueka Valley land owner Roger May, who has worked in forestry for almost 30 years, said a national standard would remove public input into decision making around land use.

It would also reclassify erosion risk levels, so that resource consents would not be needed for forestry activities such as harvesting.

He said that was bad news for places like Nelson, which had steep hillsides prone to erosion.

The Ministry for the Environment aimed to create a nationally consistent standard by removing the huge variations in forest management currently caused by different council rules.

Plantation forestry was currently managed under councils' district or regional plans, which govern land use. Each council around the country had a different plan.

Mr May said the Resource Management Process provided a forum for public input into decisions around forestry, but that wouldn't happen under National Environment Standards.

"I can see the industry's interest in wanting to see consistency of rules across the country - it makes sense. It doesn't make sense though to have different rules where the environmental issues are identical.

"My interest is in seeing that a set of rules is developed that has a better chance of meeting environmental constraints, while allowing the industry to manage their forests and make a profit.

"I don't think these guidelines will achieve that."

New Zealand Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes said the consultation process run by the Ministry had been "robust" and had given rise to regional issues around the country.

He said planned new rules around the way forests are managed would mean better protection measures, and not worse as some feared.

Mr Rhodes said a proposed national environment standard could lead to tighter controls around where and how trees are planted.

He said councils would be obliged to put better controls in place, which could make forestry unviable in some areas.

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