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Govt officials weaken local forest rules

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  Forestry slash surrounds Wiggan Bridge in Gisborne. Forestry slash surrounds Wiggan Bridge in Gisborne.

New national rules governing plantation forestry are in some cases weaker than district rules, causing concern for communities living close to erosion-prone land. Farah Hancock reports for Newsroom.

For Tolaga Bay locals, the new national forestry standard brings little comfort that pine logs and forestry debris won’t smash through their farms again. The new standard places fewer restrictions on harvesting than the council rules they replaced, which have been described as insufficient.

The National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) overrides plans of local councils around the country, in many cases with rules which are more relaxed than what foresters used to comply with.

Previously the Gisborne District Council required consent for harvesting from yellow, orange and red-zoned land. Only land zoned green, with a low risk of erosion did not require a consent.

Now only red zone land requires consent and consent must be granted for all but class 8e, a classification given to the very steepest land.

Former Gisborne councillor Manu Caddie said the legislation to give the forestry industry a “level-playing field” has created mixed results. Some parts of the country now have stricter rules than they previously had. Others, like Gisborne, have weaker rules.

The legislation raised significant concern within the community, which was already grappling with negative effects of forestry, said Caddie. Hapu groups made submissions to the draft forestry standard in 2015.

“Basically, they were saying this is going to weaken our rules, which we already knew weren’t sufficient.”