Planting forests that are good for nature, climate, and the economy

  • Public consultation opens on how forests are managed through the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF), including:
    • Giving local councils more control over where forests are planted  
    • Managing the effects of exotic carbon forestry on nature
    • Improving wildfire management in all forests.
    • Addressing the key findings of the Year One Review of the NES-PF
  • Confirmation that the permanent forest category of the ETS will open on 1 January 2023
  • Māori and other technical forestry experts to help lead work to ensure the permanent forest category enables permanent native forestry, in line with the commitment in the Emissions Reduction Plan.

Feedback is invited on Government plans to improve the way New Zealand manages forestry to ensure it works for nature, the climate, local communities, and our economy.

The consultation is a step toward delivering the Labour Party Manifesto commitment to empower local councils to decide which land can be used for plantation and carbon forests through the resource consent process.

Proposals including broadening the control by local authorities over the planting of exotic forests in their districts, including whether to widen the scope of the regulations to include permanent exotic afforestation (exotic carbon forests), with the opening of public consultation on the National Environmental Statement for Plantation Forests (NES-PF).

“This consultation supports the Government’s aim to balance the type and scale of afforestation happening across New Zealand – to get the right tree in the right place,” Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said.

”We are addressing concerns about the impacts to the environment and on rural communities from the potential conversion of productive farmland to exotic carbon forests.

“The forestry sector makes an important contribution to our economy, communities, and the environment and it is vital that the sector grows in a way that is productive and sustainable. This step helps build a high value, high wage and low emissions future for New Zealand,” Damien O’Connor said.

“We are seeing greater investment in forestry due to the significant increase in the carbon price, forestry's role in reaching our emissions reduction goals, and demand for wood products,” Minister of Forestry Stuart Nash said.

“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 proposed changes include local government having more discretion to decide on the location, scale, type and management of plantation and exotic carbon forests in their districts.

“We’re seeking feedback on options for giving local councils more control over which land can be used for afforestation including both plantation and exotic carbon forests, through the resource consent process. Councils would be able to decide based on social and economic factors which are specific to their areas and communities,” Stuart Nash said.

“Uncontrolled planting of permanent forestry undermines the sustainability of rural communities. That’s why the Government has expanded Labour’s Manifesto commitment, and want to give local councils the ability to determine where and to what extent exotic carbon forests can be planted across all land classes,” Associate Minister of Local Government Kieran McAnulty said.

“Local councils know their communities best, and I encourage everyone, rural and urban, to submit to allow their council to permit exotic carbon forestry in a way the community wants.”

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw added that it is crucial to make sure the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry and the Emissions Trading Scheme work together to deliver Government priorities on climate action and biodiversity.

“Planting trees is no replacement for reducing gross emissions. Even so, the NES-PF and the Emissions Trading Scheme still have to work together to make sure the settings are right for restoring and replanting native forests. It will take some time to get this right, but that is what we are working to achieve. 

“Right now, the rules put in place by previous Governments are not working. A rising price for carbon credits has created a strong financial incentive to establish new exotic forestry plantations. At the same time, the NES for Plantation Forestry doesn’t apply to permanent exotic forests.

“Now we have Aotearoa New Zealand’s first ever plan in place to cut climate pollution in every part of the country – backed with $4.5 billion of investment – we need to make sure forestry is done in an environmentally sound way. The forestry sector needs to contribute to emissions reduction, better environmental outcomes, and a resilient rural economy,” James Shaw said.

Ministers also confirmed that the Government will maintain its long-term goal of enabling permanent forests to transition to natives over time. Further work will need to be done to determine the best way to achieve this. To allow time for this work to be completed, and following consultation, the permanent forest category will remain unchanged for now and come into effect on 1 January 2023.

“Exotic afforestation is a key component of New Zealand’s response to climate change. However, increasing carbon prices in the NZ ETS may lead to higher-than-expected levels of exotic carbon forestry,” Stuart Nash said.

A group of Māori and other technical forestry experts will help redesign the settings of the ETS permanent forestry category so it better supports long-term indigenous carbon sinks.

“For decades, successive Governments have tried to deal with our biodiversity and climate crises separately. But the reality is, neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together. This is why we need to make sure we are genuinely reducing emissions, while also enabling restoration and replanting of our native forests, in which our indigenous wildlife can thrive – and that we are doing so in a way that works for tangata whenua,” James Shaw said. 

These changes are intended to come into effect from 1 January 2025.

Ministers encourage anyone involved in forestry or with an interest in the primary sector to provide feedback through the consultation process.

Find out more about the consultation and have your say at https://www.mpi.govt.nz/consultations/national-direction-for-plantation-and-exotic-carbon-afforestation

Find out more about the next steps for the NZ ETS permanent forest category at https://www.mpi.govt.nz/consultations/managing-exotic-afforestation-incentives