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Plantation Forestry- Change is coming

2022 is the year that just keeps giving with changes to planning provisions! The Intensification Plan Changes have been notified (Plan Change 78 in Auckland), we have a new National Policy Statement on Highly Productive Soils (find out more here) and we’re part way through Resource Management reform (find out more here). In addition to this there are draft National Policy Statements being worked on, and changes to the National Policy Statement on Freshwater.

Work is also underway on the National Environmental Standard (NES) on Plantation Forestry. This was released in 2017, and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is now part way through consultation to make changes to the document. This is largely as a result of Ministers having concerns about t the growth and extent of exotic forestry and its environmental, economic, social, and cultural impact on communities. These include the conversion of whole farms to exotic forestry[1]. Greater investment in forestry is occurring than originally envisaged, and this is due to:

  • demand for wood products

  • a developing bioeconomy

  • a large increase in the price of carbon

  • forestry's role in sequestering carbon, which is critical to reaching our emissions reduction goals.

The Review document states:

We are reviewing the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) to ensure the right forest is planted in the right place, and managed in the right way.

What’s the aim of the NES- Plantation Forestry

The NES-PF is used to manage the effects of plantation forestry on the environment. It contains regulatory controls that are nationally consistent planning provisions including technical standards, methods, and planning requirements. Local Councils can also set stricter rules in their district plans and have lower thresholds for resource consent.

In general, the regulatory controls are used to:

  • maintain or improve the environmental outcomes associated with plantation forestry activities; and

  • increase the efficiency and certainty of managing plantation forestry activities.

The NES has implications in terms of what requires resource consent.

What’s being consulted on?

The NES- PF is proposed to be changed in four main ways, being to[2]:

  • manage the environmental effects of all exotic carbon forests. It is proposed to extend the scope of regulatory controls to manage the environmental (biophysical) effects of exotic carbon forests.

  • control the location of afforestation (plantation and exotic carbon) to manage social, cultural, and economic effects. Options include to extend the scope of regulatory controls to control the location of afforestation (plantation and exotic carbon) to manage social, cultural, and economic effects.

  • improve wildfire management in all plantation and exotic carbon forests. It is proposed to extend the scope of regulatory controls to improve wildfire risk management in all plantation and exotic carbon forests. The option preferred my MPI at this stage is to amend the NES-PF to add a new requirement for forests over 1 hectare to have Wildfire Risk Management Plans (WRMP).

  • address the more significant findings of the Year One Review of the NES-PF regulations. MPI’s preferred options at this stage are:

Wilding risk management

  • Amend the NES-PF to increase the notification period for a wilding tree risk score, require submission of supporting information, and reflect updates to the Wilding Tree Risk Calculator and guidance; and

  • Amend the NES-PF to add a new requirement for foresters to assess Wilding Tree Risk at replanting.

Slash management

  • Clarify that log-processing slash must be placed on stable ground

  • Clarify that all slash placed on and around landing sites must be managed to avoid the collapse of slash piles

  • Include a new requirement to manage slash on the cutover where there is a risk of it mobilising or causing slope failure

Initial alignment with NES-Freshwater

Make minor amendments to align some provisions of the NES-PF with the same provisions in the NES-Freshwater:

• fish passage requirements

• culvert inverts

• the definition of sediment control

• general conditions for use of vehicles, machinery, equipment, and materials

Operational and technical issues

Make minor amendments to address operational issues identified since the NES-PF came into force

What impact does this have on resource consents?

At this stage, the proposed changes are still open for consultation (you can make a submission by 18/11/2022). An NES can define an activity as permitted, prohibited or requiring a resource consent (and detail what resource consent conditions are required). Its therefore likely the change will impact on resource consent requirements, but in different ways on different sites. At this stage, as the provisions are not finalised their impact isn’t known. However, as an NES applies as soon as it comes into force, if you have or are considering establishing a forest you should keep up to date with the changes proposed.

Thinking about developing rural land?

The Planning Plus team have many years of experience working in rural environments, including land use and subdivision. If you’re concerned about how the changes affect your development proposals, get in contact. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plus™ and has over 20 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

Hannah holds the qualifications of BSc (Environmental Science) and Master of Applied Science (Environmental Management), is a Member (Int) of the New Zealand Planning Institute and Secretary of the New Zealand Planning Institute Auckland Branch Committee. Hannah is also a member of the Resource Management Law Association.


Please remember that the advice in this blog is general in nature and based on information and advice available at the time of writing. Review and interpretation of the plan changes, and how they will be administered, is evolving. We recommend you get your own planning advice for your own development. As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.


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