Local communities to have a say on farm to forest conversions

Forestry Rural Communities

The Government is delivering on its 2020 election commitment to tighten up rules on farm-to-forestry conversions by giving communities greater control over the planting of forests, Forestry Minister Peeni Henare says.

“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,” Peeni Henare said. 

“We are empowering local councils to decide which land can be used for plantation and carbon forests through the resource consent process.

“This gets the balance right by giving communities a voice, while not restricting the purchasing of land or ability for farmers to choose to sell their farms to whomever they want.

“Amendments to the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry will see the environmental effects of permanent pine forests being managed the same way as plantation forests.

“This means many standards such as ensuring firebreaks, rules planting next to rivers, lakes and wetlands will now be required for any new forestry conversions,” Peeni Henare said.

The changes follow extensive public consultation on the national direction for plantation and exotic carbon afforestation last year.

“We have heard and acted on the real concerns, especially from regions such as Tairāwhiti, Wairoa and the Tararua District, about the scale of exotic carbon forestry happening and the potential impact to the environment and on rural communities,” Kieran McAnulty said.

“Everyone accepts we need to plant trees. The concern is that blanket planting of productive land is counterproductive. This change will assist communities to ensure that the right type and scale of forests are planted in the right place.

“Local Communities, through their councils, will determine the location and the extent that carbon forestry can occur,” Kieran McAnulty said.

“The forestry sector is important to local economies, contributing over $6.5 billion annually and providing over 35,000 jobs. It’s also important for the environment and meeting our emissions budgets and targets,” Peeni Henare said.

“Afforestation provides sequestration to offset gross emissions, bioenergy to support a low carbon transition and substitution for higher carbon materials.

“However, large-scale change in land use for exotic carbon forestry, if left unchecked and without any management oversight or requirements, has the potential for unintended impacts on the environment, rural communities, and regional economies.

“The devastation that unfolded in Te Tairāwhiti during Cyclone Gabrielle was a stark reminder what can happen if we get land-use settings wrong. Today’s changes help us towards addressing the findings and recommendations in the recent Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use.

“For example, the proposal to enable councils to have more stringent rules for afforestation will clarify their ability to make plans and rules to control the extent and location of plantation and exotic continuous-cover forestry within their communities.

“Operational changes proposed to the forestry standards regarding slash provisions, sediment control and harvest management plans will start to improve the environmental impacts of forestry.

“The Government is also progressing further work to redesign the permanent forest category with a goal of enabling a successful transition from exotic species to indigenous forests,” Peeni Henare said.