Updated forestry regulations increase council controls and require large slash removal

3 November 2023

The EWC largely supports the updated National Environmental Standards (NES). Continuously improving the standards of our industry, as we learn lessons, particularly after a devastating summer, is something we embrace.  We are committed to improving sustainable outcomes for our industry and the communities around us.

Erosion and debris events in our region will persist, because of the highly erodible soils, slope steepness, high tectonic uplift, the landscape responding to native forest removal 150 years ago, production forestry harvesting, and more frequent extreme weather events.

Given the persistent and inherent risk of erosion and debris mobilisation, the Eastland Wood Council is committed to collaborating with our council, iwi, and mana whenua to develop a risk-based mitigation approach which will have improved outcomes for the communities where we work, and where we live too.

Recent productive workshops on the 7th September and 27th October between Council and EWC members, demonstrate the commitment to better collaboration from all parties.  We would like to thank council for this refreshing approach.

Improvements have been made to the functionality of the NES, and some rule changes are welcome, such as the stream crossing rules, which for example allow the ability to install double culverts.

Changes such as the increased notification requirements will place an added burden on councils, and we would like to highlight the need for increased support to councils from Central Government, to ensure local councils are well resourced to develop and administer appropriate systems and processes.

The broadbrush prescriptive approach of the new NES-CF relating to debris removal from slopes is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome of minimising woody debris movement, while severely impacting the viability of the forest industry locally and nationally.

The Erosion Susceptibility Classification (ESC) system, on which the NES relies heavily, is not mapped accurately enough to provide a base for this debris removal rule. The scale at which the ESC is mapped, both includes and excludes land which is high-risk. The Gisborne District Council will need support to achieve the required improvement in mapping accuracy if these rules hope to achieve the intended outcome, and we look forward to continuing to work with GDC so we can get this important work right.

One thing we believe would be of value is a national standard for determining the composition of residual debris.  A prescribed methodology for measuring debris would limit each council having to develop its own tools.

We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, including iwi, mana whenua, and Council, as we implement these new regulations.

Warren Rance  |  Chair, Eastland Wood Council