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EDS endorses the recommendations of the forestry inquiry

12 May 2023

The Report of the Ministerial Inquiry into land uses associated with the mobilisation of woody debris (including forestry slash) and sediment in Tairāwhiti/Gisborne District and Wairoa District was released today.

EDS and others called for the Inquiry after very serious policy failings in exotic forest planting and harvest methods led to successive environmental disasters on the East Coast.

“The Report is well-written, pulls no punches and contains robust and relevant recommendations. It slams the forest sector for its appallingly bad practice and the local council for slack monitoring and enforcement. Given the timeframe it is an impressive piece of work,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“Of particular note is the Report’s finding that the existing regulatory instruments for plantation forestry are too permissive, failing “miserably” to prevent “predictable off-site effects of forestry activities” and are in need of urgent review.

“EDS and Pure Advantage made a joint submission to the Inquiry and EDS is pleased to see that many of our recommendations are reflected in the Report.

“The Report recommends:

  • Prohibition of plantation forestry on ‘extreme’ erosion-prone land and returning it to permanent forest, preferably indigenous, to ‘heal the gullies’.
  • Immediate cessation of large-scale clear-fell harvesting within Tairāwhiti and Wairoa districts and adoption of staged coupe harvesting methods instead.
  • Greater regulatory control of plantation forestry on ‘very high’ and ‘high’ erosion risk land informed by higher resolution erosion susceptibility mapping.
  • Increased plantation forestry setbacks from riparian areas to minimise mobilisation of debris and enhance stream health.
  • Qualitative oversight of forest harvest plans by a central Government regulator.
  • Pursuing a mosaic of sustainable land uses, both protective and productive, that are appropriate to their place in the landform.
  • Reviewing the overseas investment consent criteria to ensure both benefits and costs are considered and longer-term investments prioritised.
  • Interrogating the credibility of the Forest Stewardship Certification scheme, observing that it is “extraordinary that companies [with] convictions for environmental offences and [that] are responsible for environmental and property damage and loss of social licence have maintained FSC certification.”
  • Urgently establishing a world-leading biodiversity credit scheme to complement and counterbalance the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and to incentivise permanent indigenous forests.
  • Reviewing the ETS to better incentivise natives, which the Report describes as encouraging monocultures of radiata pine and in the wrong place.

“The Report’s findings are focused on Tairāwhiti and Wairoa. However EDS contends that plantation forestry is causing significant adverse environmental effects elsewhere around the country. Ministers should therefore widen the review of the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to align with the recommendations made for Tairāwhiti and Wairoa.

“Overall, the Report, which contains a number of other recommendations aimed at supporting the affected communities in the recovery, are highly relevant and should be implemented in their totality by Government,” Mr Taylor concluded.