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Forest Co's In Alliance With Environmental NGOs

Large NZ Plantation Forest Companies In Alliance With Environmental NGOs

In one of the most unlikely alliances of the decade, the NZ Forests Industries Council and the NZ Forest Owners’ Association joined forces with Greenpeace South Pacific, Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, and World Wide Fund for Nature NZ, to convene meetings designed to chart the course of forest management in New Zealand.

The intention is to establish a National Initiative on forest certification and development of performance standards for New Zealand’s forests, within the context and framework of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system.

The FSC, headquartered in Mexico, is a major international proponent of sustainable forest management.

Initially, the apparent aim was to create only Plantation management standards. However agreement was reached to widen the scope to include both plantation and indigenous forest management. This change is likely to improve the chances of FSC endorsement because elements of the FSC Principles and Criteria require this approach. FSC standards may not be applied to just one species or one forest type.

Seemingly, international preferences by consumers for wood and wood products sourced only from forests certified as being sustainably managed, is making life difficult for sales of New Zealand wood overseas. New Zealand forest owners need creditable international certification, in order to sell their timber.

An interesting aspect of the exercise is that apparently the environmental NGOs envisaged this process as a means of cementing in place their contention that indigenous forests are inherently unmanageable in a sustainable way. However, a major goal of the FSC is to ensure that most forest produce of the world comes from sustainably managed indigenous forests, so achievement of the NGO objective could be somewhat problematic.

The inaugural meeting of forestry stakeholders was in Rotorua over 20th - 22nd May 2001. Work on the next steps is current and will be intense for some time yet. A goal is for a draft Plantation Standard by September this year.

Another key FSC requirement in the National Initiative Process is for standards to be developed through a balanced, multi-stakeholder process involving consensus-based decision-making. The structure of an FSC National Initiative requires that stakeholders be grouped into three chambers – social, environmental and economic. A fourth chamber, Maori, was added.

The FSC are accustomed to dealing with dissent in these processes, and have cleverly set up structures that require consultation between parties and encourage consensus.

This is a very significant time for forestry and conservation in New Zealand.

ENDS

Brian Swale is a forestry professional who supports the practice of environmentally sound sustainable forestry. He can be contacted at http://www.caverock.net.nz/~bj/beech/ and 03-326-7447.


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