The first announced changes to forestry standards since Cyclone Gabrielle will put power back into the hands of local communities, according to Federated Farmers forestry spokesperson Toby Williams.
The new rules – which come into effect on November 2 – will mean slash longer than two metres and with a large-end diameter of more than 10 cm must be removed from erosion-prone land after harvesting, although only if it is safe to do so.
“These new rules will give local councils, who are accountable to the community they represent, much more say over what is planted – and where it’s planted,” Williams said.
“We’ve seen in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay the kind of damage that can be caused when forestry slash is mismanaged – it was totally devastating for our communities, and we’re still recovering,”
Forestry Minister Peeni Henare said foresters who do not confirm to the refreshed regulations must obtain resource consent.
“This is a minimum standard across the country, and councils can apply more stringent requirements if they choose,” he said.
Environment Minister David Parker said yesterday that any non-indigenous forests planted for carbon sequestration will now be managed in the same way as plantation forests are managed.
“There has been a big increase in carbon forests since the forestry regulations were introduced in 2018. Carbon foresters will now need to meet the same environmental standards as plantation foresters,” Parker said.
“There are also new provisions for managing wilding tree spread to help better control these species.”
In the past five years, Williams noted, more than 200,000 hectares of productive farmland have been converted to pine trees and carbon farming – and it will probably never be farmed on again.
As previously reported by the Times-Age in August, in 2022 3589ha was sold in the Masterton District, 1055ha was sold in South Wairarapa District, and 3895ha was sold in Tararua District.
“This has completely hollowed out some of our rural communities. As the pines have moved in, the people have moved out – and the life of these small towns has gone with them,” Williams said.
“With fewer jobs and spending, that sucks the life out of our rural communities.”
Federated Farmers believes landowners are “entitled” to make up their own minds about how they use their land, and Williams is of the view that the rules and regulations put in place have “completely distorted the market”.