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Regional council concerned about direction of national plantation forestry standard

Waikato Regional Council is concerned about the environmental impacts of the government’s proposed National Environmental Standards (NES) for plantation forestry for sensitive areas like the Coromandel Peninsula.

The proposed NES seeks to provide a “more consistent and appropriate plantation forestry management framework, while facilitating the sustainable management of natural and physical resources”.

In October last year the council provided feedback on a discussion document on the proposed NES.

Following the review of 117 submissions, a revised NES was released by the Government in May to give existing submitters a chance to have their say.

Waikato Regional Council has provided feedback to the Ministry for the Environment outlining its concerns about the revised policy, as well as the processes used to develop it.

Among its concerns, the council has said the erosion susceptibility classification (ESC) –used to identify land where forestry activities would be permitted or require resource consent – won’t achieve environmental protection objectives. This is due to significant scale, boundary and technical limitations for the use and interpretation of the ESC.

Policy and strategy committee chairperson Paula Southgate said: “We are disappointed the submission we made last year appears to have been disregarded.

“We are particularly concerned that environmental standards will be reduced in high risk areas such as the Coromandel Peninsula.

“Meanwhile, costs are increased in other areas with additional auditing requirements and performance standards or consents being required where they are not at present,” Cr Southgate said.

“We want to send a delegation of councillors and staff to Wellington to make a direct presentation to the Ministry explaining our concerns about the revised NES.

“The council does support government enabling sustainable management of resources through National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards. However, this revised NES is going to be impractical for us to implement in its current form,” she said.

Cr Southgate added that plantation forests provide significant employment and economic benefits, while also helping to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and reduce flood peaks.

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