New Standards for Plantation Forestry

If you own more than a hectare of forest planted for commercial purposes you need to comply with the new national environmental standards which came into effect on 1 May 2018.

The goal of the regulations – the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) – is to set minimum standards for commercial forestry operations. These apply across the board, irrespective of what area of NZ you operate in, however councils will be able to impose more stringent rules as considered appropriate in their areas of jurisdiction.

The NES-PF cover eight core plantation forestry activities in any forest larger than one hectare that has been planted for commercial purposes and harvest. Those activities are: afforestation; pruning and thinning-to-waste; earthworks; river crossings; forest quarrying; harvesting; mechanical land preparation and replanting. The effects of forestry activities occurring outside the particular forest are generally not covered and existing regional and district plan rules will continue to govern those.

Examples of what the new standards require are:

  • for afforestation to be undertaken without resource consent, various conditions are required including setbacks for tree planting from rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal areas and significant natural areas.
  • for harvesting to be undertaken without resource consent, foresters must submit a harvest plan to their local council if requested. The plan must identify environmental risks including susceptibility to erosion and must list the mitigation proposed to respond to those risks.
  • for earthworks to be undertaken without resource consent, foresters must install and maintain stormwater and sediment control measures.

The regulations are based on what is considered to be existing good practice standards for the forestry industry. For the most part the NES-PF represent a raising of the environmental standards for forestry operations.

It is therefore important that when considering undertaking any one of the eight activities, you refer to the NES-PF and make sure what you propose complies with those standards. If what you propose does not comply, you will need resource consent for that activity to be considered lawful.
The area is ripe for confusion, particularly at the outset. However, there are three online tools that can help you determine when consent will be needed. The Wilding Tree Risk Calculator, the Erosion Susceptibility Classification and the Fish Spawning Calculator to identify disturbance to waterways while fish are spawning. These tools can be found at

The intent of the NES-PF is to provide national standards that will protect address the risks of forestry activities and protect sensitive environments. Afforestation of highly erodible land will require resource consent and predictably more strict conditions than currently to prevent environmental damage. It is difficult to assess whether the recent events in Marahau and Tolaga Bay would have had any different outcomes if the standards had applied to those operations but the NES-PF certainly intend a different outcome in the future.

Talk to us

Contact our Resource Management Team today to discuss how we can assist you.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice. It is important that you seek legal advice that is specific to your circumstances.

Andrea Halloran

Andrea Halloran

Position: Partner
DDI: +64 3 545 6701

Topics: All Select