Forestry here far from FSC theory

Anne Salmond

COLUMN

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, where a representative of the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) in Bonn spoke about her organisation. An FSC-certified forest is expected to meet “the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations”. A number of forests in Tairawhiti are certified by the FSC.

In order to be FSC certified, forest managers must ensure the “optimal use and local processing” of forest products; “strive to strengthen and diversify the local economy, avoiding dependence on a single forest product”; “recognise, maintain and where appropriate, enhance . . . resources such as watersheds and fisheries”; and “conserve biological diversity, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes”.

In FSC-certified forests, riparian strips of 10 metres wide should be left on both sides of all permanent waterways, and indigenous reserves equivalent to 10 percent of the plantation be protected. Resource consents must be upheld, and the interests of neighbours and local communities respected.

Given the number of raw logs that leave Tairawhiti, the refusal of some FSC-registered forestry companies to support local processing, breaches of resource consents, endless complaints about severe damage to the roading network and to waterways, coasts and harbours from sediment and slash, there seems to be a radical disjunction between FSC theory and practice in our region.

In particular, the expectation that local ratepayers (many of whom live on low incomes) should heavily subsidise forestry companies by paying for damage to the roading network, leading to higher rates and reduced services, is inconsistent with the FSC requirement that forest managers strive to avoid negative social and economic impacts on their communities.

A visit to the East Coast by FSC officials might be timely, to ensure that the forests they certify in our region are truly sustainable. Media spin and legal intimidation of local councils are no substitute for a genuine commitment to sustainable forestry, as the FSC standards also insist.

At the same time, Gisborne District councillors need to ensure that forestry companies (which are mostly owned offshore) pay their share of damage to the roading network in Tairawhiti, rather than raising rates or cutting services to ratepayers. If councillors don’t stand up for those who elected them, it’s time to step down.

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, where a representative of the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) in Bonn spoke about her organisation. An FSC-certified forest is expected to meet “the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations”. A number of forests in Tairawhiti are certified by the FSC.

In order to be FSC certified, forest managers must ensure the “optimal use and local processing” of forest products; “strive to strengthen and diversify the local economy, avoiding dependence on a single forest product”; “recognise, maintain and where appropriate, enhance . . . resources such as watersheds and fisheries”; and “conserve biological diversity, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes”.

In FSC-certified forests, riparian strips of 10 metres wide should be left on both sides of all permanent waterways, and indigenous reserves equivalent to 10 percent of the plantation be protected. Resource consents must be upheld, and the interests of neighbours and local communities respected.

Given the number of raw logs that leave Tairawhiti, the refusal of some FSC-registered forestry companies to support local processing, breaches of resource consents, endless complaints about severe damage to the roading network and to waterways, coasts and harbours from sediment and slash, there seems to be a radical disjunction between FSC theory and practice in our region.

In particular, the expectation that local ratepayers (many of whom live on low incomes) should heavily subsidise forestry companies by paying for damage to the roading network, leading to higher rates and reduced services, is inconsistent with the FSC requirement that forest managers strive to avoid negative social and economic impacts on their communities.

A visit to the East Coast by FSC officials might be timely, to ensure that the forests they certify in our region are truly sustainable. Media spin and legal intimidation of local councils are no substitute for a genuine commitment to sustainable forestry, as the FSC standards also insist.

At the same time, Gisborne District councillors need to ensure that forestry companies (which are mostly owned offshore) pay their share of damage to the roading network in Tairawhiti, rather than raising rates or cutting services to ratepayers. If councillors don’t stand up for those who elected them, it’s time to step down.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Max, Christchurch - 12 days ago
Very well said Dame Anne Salmond. Great advocacy for current and future generations of New Zealand people. This should apply right across our sacred homelands.

Michelle Reid, Auckland - 11 days ago
Forestry companies pay huge taxes via road user diesel charges, fuel tax, gst, rates, income and personal tax, which slaughters their profits from the low-value trees.

Ian - 9 days ago
"Forestry companies pay huge taxes via road user diesel charges, fuel tax, gst, rates, income and personal tax, which slaughters their profits from the low-value trees." That being the case, and I wouldn't doubt it, then that questions the financial viability of blanket-planting of harvestable pines (mostly foreign owned). So stop planting 30-year rotation pines and start looking at longer rotation alternatives or natives, and halve the number of these road-wrecking trucks on our highways.

John, Wellington - 9 days ago
It's always difficult when a company can sell its product for more than local communities are willing to pay. In this instance, the timber is worth more to international markets than local businesses are willing or able to pay.
When export markets are good, this strategy works, but when they are not, you need a local market. Balance is needed.

Henry Koia - 1 day ago
According to Activate Tairawhiti's website, the amount of wood harvested across the Tairawhiti region is expected to nearly double in volume over the next five years and stay at that level for the next 30 years. Growing the forestry industry is key to Labour's plans for regional development, given the party's acknowledgement that "the forest sector and associated downstream processing industries have the potential to add significant value to the overall economy and the environment, as well as create sustainable opportunities for employment right across the country; but especially in regional New Zealand," and that "increasing both commercial and native forest area in New Zealand is an important part of doing our bit to combat climate change". Like it or loathe it, forestry is here to stay for a long while yet. I think the focus needs to shift quick-smart from harvesting wood, to harvesting social impact from East Coast forests. The pathway forward is through an East Coast Forestry Sustainability Strategy that is driven by Gisborne District Council in partnership with iwi, being the representative bodies of the people who live here and the people who have guardianship responsibilities over the land. The people of this region are the ones who hold the biggest stake in forestry. Hon Meka Whaitiri also has a key support role to play in the strategy's formulation given her many hats, including member for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Associate Minister for Local Government, and Associate Minister for Crown/Maori Relations. Ready or not, the Government's National Forestry Strategy is coming. Do we really want to leave our region's future in the hands of ex-MPI cum NZ Forest Service bureaucrats based in Rotorua? Meng, Meka, let's get cracking!

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you think the benefits of forestry to the region outweigh its negative impacts?
    See also: