Last updated: 1 February 2011
A group representing most plantation forest owners, major ENGOs, social interests and Maori are developing a National Standard for Certification of Plantation Forest Management in New Zealand. A final draft ready for forest testing is expected to be completed by July 2010. The forest testing which is an audit by a certified auditing body will determine the applicability of the Standard to NZ Plantation Forests and help refine a final document for endorsement by the Forest Stewardship Council. It is also a crucial process to demonstrate and promote applicability to forest owners and key stakeholders and ensure that each party’s aspirations can be met.
Forest certification, in particular Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has rapidly expanded both internationally and in New Zealand. Approximately 1 million of the 1.8 million hectares of NZ plantation forest are certified to FSC. FSC is implemented through 10 internationally applied Principles each with several Criteria. These FSC Principles and Criteria are interpreted locally by National Standards. FSC require all forest management certificate holders to be certified in accordance with a National Standard by the end of 2010. NZ had begun development of a National Standard in 2001 and reached an impasse over a critical component in 2003. The disagreeing parties have recently agreed the impasse can be resolved and have re-instated the process.
Compared with other primary industry initiatives this is the only standard with equal economic, environmental and social input and support. In many ways the standard is ground breaking, leading the way for other industries to follow and provide environmental market credentials for their products.
Without certification one third of NZ’s current wood markets by volume would not be accessible to NZ forest growers. Initiatives such as the NZ Green Building Council procurement would need to import wood from outside NZ. Also without FSC the future of processing plants that rely almost fully on FSC markets (in the US) such as Tenon in Taupo are in doubt.
A Standard Development Group (SDG) comprising equal representation from Economic, Environmental, Maori and Social (“Chambers”) interests has been formed in accordance with FSC’s guidance on standard development. The SDG has picked up the 2003 Draft and begun amending to address the unresolved issues and update changes over the last few years and present a 3rd Draft for forest testing. To assist the SDG the following five technical groups have been established comprising members from each interested “Chamber” and other experts:
The technical groups will provide recommendations on their theme to the SDG and their organisations will also assist with extension.
SGS Qualifor (a FSC accredited certification body) will undertake a forest test (audit) of the Pan Pac Forest Estate in Hawke’s Bay using the 3rd draft of the National Standard. The test will demonstrate the applicability of the Standard to NZ plantation forests and identify any shortfalls or gaps that require revision.
Testing will follow a normal FSC audit procedure that tests the full range of indicators included in the Standard, and shall consider the audit-ability of the standard as a whole as well as the socioeconomic impacts of compliance. Effectively the test shall consider the cost-benefits of the standard. It will be conducted in accordance with the FSC Standard: Process Requirement s for the Development and Maintenance of Forest Stewardship Standards (FSC-STD-60-006).
The testing will require the presence of members of the Standard Development Group (SDG) to consider if the purpose and intent of the Standard are being met. Forest testing will involve local and national stakeholders to ensure the testing meets their expectations on applying the draft Standa
SGS will provide a report to the SDG with recommended actions. The SDG will then decide on the recommendations and place these into a final draft which will be publically disseminated for consultation over one month. Once submissions are received the SDG will make final adjustments and submit to FSC in Bonn, Germany for endorsement.
The Standard Development Group (SDG) have met on several occasions and regularly exchanged views to reach a consensus that the standard can be released for public consultation. To facilitate this process a website has been established which provides information on the standard development, a copy of the draft standard for public consultation and supporting documents: http://www.nzfoa.org.nz/certification
Significant milestones have been the agreement on a draft standard for forest testing, the forest testing and the release of a final draft for public consultation. The forest testing was significant as it indicated that Pan Pac could pass the audit and be certified under the draft standard. However, there were some qualifiers concerning interpretation that were communicated to the SDG who addressed these for the final consultation draft. It was also notable that agreement on reserve contribution and riparian setbacks was made by the SDG. These were issues that impeded a final draft in 2003 and resulted in the impasse that this project has addressed. However, there is still some debate on these issues, which amongst other issues are expected to be debated in submissions and consequently by the SDG.
The development is about one month behind schedule, but the SDG are confident of being ready to apply for full endorsement of the Standard before the end of the year.
Notably, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has endorsed the standard development process.