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National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) came into effect on 1 May 2018. The NES-PF provide nationally consistent regulations to manage the environmental effects of forestry. They apply to 1 hectare or more of continuous forest tree species deliberately planted for commercial harvest, and all associated forestry activities.

The objectives of the NES-PF are to:

  • maintain or improve the environmental outcomes associated with plantation forestry activities
  • increase the efficiency and certainty of managing plantation forestry activities.

The objectives are achieved through a single set of regulations under the Resource Management Act.

What are the regulations?

The NES-PF contains rules and compliance conditions for eight plantation forestry activities:

  • Afforestation.
  • Pruning and thinning to waste.
  • Earthworks.
  • River crossings.
  • Forest quarrying.
  • Harvesting.
  • Mechanical land preparation. 
  • Replanting.

These activities are provided for as either permitted (not requiring authorisation), controlled or restricted discretionary (requiring authorisation).

Risk assessment tools

There are three risk assessment tools that form part of the regulations.

Erosion Susceptibility Classification

Fish Spawning Indicator

Wilding Tree Risk Calculator

Activities not covered by the NES-PF regulations will continue to be managed by regional or territorial authority plans. In the Waikato region, this includes the Waikato Regional Plan and the Regional Coastal Plan.

Refer to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ overview of regulations to determine what is in and out of scope.


Waikato Regional Council will implement the regulations of the NES-PF for activities in our region.

Some permitted forestry activities now require notification to us within 20 days of starting an activity. Find out more, including how to notify.

What council has done to align with the NES-PF

Waikato Regional Council policy staff have identified all plans that will be affected by the NES-PF. There will be amendments to the Waikato Regional Plan, Waikato Regional Coastal Plan and Proposed Plan Change 1 – Waikato and Waipā river catchments.

The Government requires that all plan provisions which duplicate or conflict with the NES-PF be removed or amended. Amendments to these plans will be made in June-July 2018 to indicate where the NES-PF may or may not apply.

Where rules can be more stringent

There are criteria identified in Regulation 6 of the NES-PF to retain more stringent rules and to make new rules more stringent. These include giving effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, providing for outstanding natural features and landscapes and significant natural areas, and recognising and managing unique and sensitive environments such as geothermal or karst landscapes.

Where regional rules are retained under Regulation 6, a Schedule 1 consultative process is not to be undertaken. However, where new rules are proposed to be more stringent, these have to go through the Schedule 1 consultative process.

There is one regional rule which will be retained under Regulation 6 – Discretionary Activity Rule Activities in the Vicinity of a Significant Geothermal Feature.

Our approach for implementation

We are taking a two-phase approach in our implementation of the NES-PF.

Phase 1

The first phase was the identification of all amendments that needed to be made, which included rules to be retained under Regulation 6. Section 44A of the Resource Management Act 1991 directs councils to make amendments to RMA plans which can be made without using the Schedule 1 process. This is why there has been no formal notification or consultation processes.

Phase 2

The second phase is to identify, through evidence and monitoring, where new rules to be more stringent will be needed under Regulation 6. If there is justification for new, more stringent rules, this will be undertaken as part of the Waikato Regional Plan review (Healthy Environments) and will subsequently go through Schedule 1 (formal notification and consultation) of that process.

Relationship between NES-PF and other plans and legislation

Through the review and alignment process it has been determined that there are no consequential amendments required to the Regional Policy Statement. However, should new rules be proposed under Regulation 6, amendments to the Regional Policy Statement may be required as part of the Waikato Regional Plan review (Healthy Environments) process.

We have not identified any conflict between the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River and the NES-PF. However, should conflicts arise, the Vision and Strategy prevails.

If you have any questions relating to your forestry activity requirements, please contact Waikato Regional Council on our freephone 0800 800 402.