New Zealand (also known as Aotearoa) is a beautiful country consisting of two main islands (North Island and South Island) and dozens of small surrounding islands. For its size, its landscapes are extremely varied and diverse; from marshes to alpine mountains, deserts, beaches, ancient forests, huge lakes, and everything in between. This makes forestry a challenge but simultaneously rewarding when applying responsible management.

Moreover, weather events that were once rare must now be planned for as if they could happen frequently, costs of living and labour demand have made New Zealanders reevaluate wage levels, and stakeholders are more engaged than ever before in environmental outcomes. “Over the past two decades FSC certification has been the catalyst for vast improvements in the standard of forest management in NZ, in particular relating to the management of environmental values in our forests and engagement with stakeholders. This has been positive for the industry to ensure we are well placed to meet future challenges. The new standard will continue to raise the bar and ensure our forest management meets international expectations of responsible forest management. “– Sally Strang, Environmental Manager, Manulife Investment Management Forest Management (NZ) Ltd.

The development process of the NZ standard started in 2014 and included the update to align with the revised Principles & Criteria version 5-2 and the FSC’s International Generic Indicators (IGI). The current FSC Forest Stewardship Standard for New Zealand (FSC-STD-NZL-01-2012) was used as a basis for this process. 

The SDG initially used a matrix where each of the IGI was used as the starting point and then compared with relevant indicators from the current standard for New Zealand.  Where an IGI was not suitable for New Zealand, the standard development group (SDG) either adapted, replaced, or deleted the indicator (in order of preference).  In some cases, specific indicators relevant to New Zealand’s local context were added where the IGI were not considered adequate or appropriate. The standard underwent two public consultations.

Plantation forests to protect our native forests

Forestry has a long and complex history in New Zealand. The origins of our plantations date back to the early 1900’s when the first plantations were established to provide an alternative wood source to the native forests that were slowly growing. Foresters could see that native forests alone would not be sufficient.

The NZ Forests Act 1949 established controls on the logging of native forests for timber, however a reduced level of native harvesting continued through the 1980’s when there were growing calls to cease native forest harvesting and clearance.  Harvesting from the government owned native forests ceased completely in 2002 with all forests reclassified for conservation purposes.  Conversion of native forests to plantations effectively ceased in 1991 with the signing of the NZ Forest Accord between the NZ Forest Owners Association and several NZ based ENGOs.  Under the NZ Forest Accord, forest owners agreed to cease clearance of any significant areas of native forest to establish plantations and since then additional legal controls have been put in place to protect native vegetation. As a result, most native forests in NZ are now protected in some form or other, and native forest harvesting is restricted to very small areas under strict controls.

The native forests of Aotearoa are beautiful, essential to our ecosystems and precious treasures in the eyes of the people. To this end, plantation forests filled the role of one of our largest primary industries, productive forestry.

This NZ standard doubles down in the protection of native forests. Included in its criteria is the requirement for certified, productive forests to contain significant areas of native forest and high conservation values.

The NZ standard requires all certified forests to have at least 10% set aside as native reserve, with many having significantly higher percentages simply due to the areas that were retained in forest at the time they were established. The NZ standard also requires certified managers to achieve 10% reserve set aside in each Ecological District in which they manage forest, recognizing the value in retaining indigenous vegetation in a variety of ecosystem types

Tropical storms demand a response

Many production forests were established in New Zealand on land that had been initially cleared and established in farmland and found to be unsuitable for farming, in some instances due to fertility issues but the vast majority due to problems with erosion. New Zealand has relatively young geology and in some areas highly erodible landscapes.  Plantation forests were established to stabilize eroding farmland and reduce sediment loss.  The erodible geology brings challenges at harvest time.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, a Crown Research Institute, believes there is strong evidence that the intensity and frequency of tropical storms in New Zealand is increasing and will continue to increase. These storms have the potential to devastate New Zealand. Recent examples have shown the impact these storms can have on our lives and livelihoods. Our productive forests need to adapt, and the new Forest Stewardship Standard contains requirements relevant to meeting this challenge.

To reduce damage from slash, harvesting activities must take place a certain distance from waterways. Standards have always required such methods, but this setback has been expanded to reflect the increased risks our environment poses. This should help to mitigate the damage these storms can cause and help keep our water ways clean and clear.

The NZ standard also includes new requirements related to the underlying erosion susceptibility.  In areas that have been mapped as having high erosions susceptibility, forest managers are required to undertake an assessment following harvest to determine which areas should be replanted and to continue to monitor any harvested areas to monitor erosion.

The new FSS for New Zealand (English version) can be consulted in the FSC Document Centre.

Visit FSC ANZ New Zealand FM Standards Webpage for more information. And the FSC ANZ Newsfeed Webpage for more related news.  

For any queries on the standard, please contact Craig Kenney, FSC NZ Business Development Manager, Email:

To view the news of FSC International on the publication of the standard, click here for English, y para Español aquí.