New national regulations for carbon forests

// Climate Change

New rules have been released on how the effects of forestry, including carbon forestry, are managed.

image of pine trees


Regulatory changes have been made to how the effects of forestry are managed. The changes give councils more power to decide where new forests are located, and the regulations now apply to both plantation forestry and exotic continuous-cover forests (carbon forests) that are deliberately established for commercial purposes.

B+LNZ has been advocating for these changes, and others, that can better manage the risks and effects of carbon forestry. 

Although changes still need to be made to the NZ ETS settings, which B+LNZ will continue to advocate for, these rules changes are a step in the right direction. 

New national regulations for carbon forests

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) were established in 2018 to create nationally consistent regulatory conditions for plantation forests. Since the NES-PF, there has been an increase in carbon forest planting, which did not previously face any management requirements. The negative effects of carbon forests can be substantial especially when it comes to fire, pest, and disease spread.

The new rules came out last week and mean that carbon forests have to face the same requirements as forests intended for clear-fell harvest. This helps to reduce some, but not all, of the risks posed to the natural environment or rural communities.

Going forward, carbon foresters must plan out how they will meet environmental requirements for stream crossings, sediment loss from limited harvests, and access track drainage among other things. These requirements already exist for plantation foresters.

The new regulations also enable councils to consider more factors when making rules about forestry in their plans, including location and scale. This could include the impact on the community as a result of the land use change. Councils will be making changes to their District and Regional plans over the next 5 years to enact these powers. 

The regulations are now called the National Environmental Standards for Commercial Forestry (NES-CF). They were previously called the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF).

What we think

B+LNZ has been advocating for these changes (PDF, 7.6 MB) and others, that better manage the risks and effects of carbon forestry. Although changes still need to be made to the NZ ETS settings because this is the underlying legislation driving land-use change, these rule changes are a step in the right direction. 

We are concerned that these rules do not require carbon foresters to manage the risks of fire, disease, or pest incursions. These are risks that are increasingly prominent in a warming world. Changes that could address these risks are potentially being made to the conditions for participation in the ‘permanent forest’ category of the NZ ETS but it is not clear when, or if, these will come into effect.

These changes will not immediately slow the land use change we are seeing of productive sheep and beef farms into carbon forestry. However, they will mean that carbon foresters have the same obligations as other land-users when conducting their activities. 

We have heard that the consultation which occurred earlier this year on proposed changes to how forestry is treated in the NZ ETS market is hampering commitment from investors. 

Regardless of the election outcomes, B+LNZ will continue to advocate on behalf of our sheep and beef farmers to better control the scale and pace of land use change into unmanaged carbon forestry.