The Assessment of Environmental Effects for the Timberlands West Coast sustainable beech management proposals of 1998 - 1999, written by Kit Richards. Timberlands West Coast Limited (New Zealand) (TWC) applied to the Buller and Tasman District Councils for Resource Consent hearings under the Resource Management Act 1991, to carry out sustainable forest management in about 98,000 hectares of beech (Nothofagus) forest. TWC is a State Owned Enterprise, created following the dis-establishment of the NZ Forest Service by the 1984 - 1990 Labour Government. In 1999, a newly elected Labour government, acting on preservationist dogma, moved swiftly to stop the Resource Consent hearings. In consequence, the public of New Zealand, and the world, was enied the oppertunity to learn about the excellent and world-leading sustainable forest management developed and proposed by TWC. This document is published here to help make the information more publically accessible.

Assessment of Environmental Effects


APPLICATIONS FOR RESOURCE CONSENTS

UNDER SECTION 88 OF THE

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACT 1991


Page six/six of this document.


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9. MONITORING

Monitoring of the forests is to be undertaken to achieve the objective of ecologically based sustainable management. According to an emerging international consensus this objective can be accepted as being met if certain criteria listed below are met in full on any one particular site or on a regional landscape basis.

The criteria are the:
  1. conservation of biological diversity;
  2. maintenance of the forests productive capacity;
  3. maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality;
  4. maintenance of soil and water resources.
9.1 Monitoring Strategy for Beech Sustainable Management managed by TWCL.

Within the context of New Zealand law, the Resource Management Act 1991 (Part II) also requires that similar such criteria be met and any adverse effects upon them be avoided, remedied, or mitigated. To demonstrate compliance within the management system, certain key indicators will require monitoring. During the Crown managed submission process in October 1998, there was some criticism that TWCL had not been specific enough about its monitoring program. TWCL seeks to clarify its position in respect of monitoring in the following sub-sections.

The international criteria and the extent to which these nationally scaled criteria and indicators can be met by the TWCL monitoring system are summarised in section 6.4 of the TWCL Sustainable Management Overview Plan.

The prime tools and strategy for monitoring is defined below.

9.1.1 Working Circle Monitoring
  1. Continuous inventory system – randomly located, fixed area, sample plots measured at 10 year intervals. Monitors seedling, sapling and tree numbers, tree diameter ranges, growth rates and mortality of principle species, trends in timber quality ratios, total biomass, live/ dead biomass ratios, forest structure and "large tree" retention, macro-species compositional changes.
  2. Pre-harvest marking and threatened species location reconnaissance - builds digital GIS record of distribution incidence and habitat type.
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  1. Timber harvesting records – monitor annual yield reconciliation based on GPS location, species and size of all harvested trees and the location, number of trees and frequency distribution of gaps sizes, damage to adjacent trees, pre & post harvest natural regeneration, log/ tree quality and site characteristics. Also provide register on incidence of mistletoe or threatened avifauna host encounters or host felling. Information kept in digital files and on GIS maps.
  2. Regeneration surveys - monitors success of natural regeneration and need for and success of planting.
  3. Pinhole Borer Monitoring - monitors the extent, if any, of additional insect attack in trees adjacent to harvest sites and need for further hygiene. There is a high degree of confidence concerning the very low level of risk posed by pinhole borers. However, it is proposed that a monitoring system be installed at least in initial years to confirm management practices. Lincoln College Entomology Division (Evans, 1997) has developed a pinhole borer monitoring system under contract. The pinhole monitoring methodology is included in Appendix 7, Volume 2.
  4. Landscape – sequences taken of aerial oblique and vertical photographs covering a range of sites before and after harvesting and areas not harvested. Monitors forest health, naturalness and landscape values.
  5. Regional forest health – field surveys and records of the impacts of droughts, pathogens, storm effects and earthquakes recorded on digital GIS. Monitors spatial and temporal pattern, incident trends and location susceptibility and cumulative increase.
  6. Wild animal populations – aerial and field inspections of possums and ungulates, in particular the isolated goat populations. Monitors general levels and success of control measures.
  7. Weed species – monitoring status and distribution of forest weeds. Trends in occurrence.
9.1.2 “Integrated Management Landscapes” – joint management objectives with the Department of Conservation.

These represent continuous natural ecosystems with full altitudinal and bathymetric sequences encompassing a range of land tenures, which are focuses for biodiversity management on the West Coast. Initial areas in the TWCL estate will be the eastern Paparoas and Station Creek in the Maruia Valley.

In general, these ecosystems are deteriorating due to browsing and predation by introduced animals, weed invasions, and fragmentation. The policy, outcomes and restoration operations will be co-ordinated co-operatively with the Department of Conservation and other participating landowners. Principally, these will involve:

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  1. Population monitoring of possums, wasps and predators. Annual trap-catch surveys, spotlight counts, and tracking tunnels to follow the success of control operations.
  2. Wildlife – Surveys: 5min counts of native birds at repeatable fixed stations to monitor long-term changes and trends in population numbers.
  3. Weed species – field survey to monitor status and control of forest weeds
9.1.3 “Paired” Monitoring – Sites for Research Studies

This will involve replicated, paired sites where intensive monitoring and research of harvesting impacts will be focused. These sites include harvested as well as undisturbed forest or naturally disturbed forest as a control.
  1. Extra continuous inventory plots, randomly located, measured at 10 year intervals. Monitor as for similar plots in working circles but provides additional factor of non harvest control to measure divergence, parallelism or convergence.
  2. Harvesting gaps – monitorsat micro-scale providing comparison of plant regeneration, biodiversity, species succession and response of surrounding trees in natural and harvested gaps.

    Monitor impacts upon invertebrate diversity and function.

    Monitor usage of undisturbed, natural and harvest gaps in forest by common birds and predators. One-off study unless major differences are detected.
  3. Freshwater fish – sampling of fresh water species using minnow taps 4 times per year before and after harvesting. A one-off study unless major differences detected.
  4. Water quality – add to Regional Council sampling regime of West Coast catchments, with some extra sampling before and after harvesting and with controls or benchmarked against Regional Council " natural water" sites.
  5. Soils condition – monitors soils condition by standard system (Sparling and Schipper, 1997) as basis for establishing comparative land-use effects. Any long-term studies on nutrient cycling and carbon flux will be centred in these paired catchment areas.
  6. Insect pathogens – platypus and wasp studies will be centred in these catchments.
Unmodified pairs to the catchments may be located in conservation lands if suitable sites can be matched. Approval in principle has been gained. Such an arrangement will keep unmodified forest completely independent of production management. One of the more likely suitable areas would be parts of the Reefton Saddle Wildlife Corridor and/ or parts of the Maruia.

Outside research providers will also be encouraged to work at these sites to build an intensive knowledge base of the ecosystem.

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9.1.4 General Issues

9.1.4.1 Avifauna

Avifauna remains one of the key monitoring areas in terms of the effects of any management. However, because key threatened species are already sparse and severely at risk from predation from rats and stoats it will be extraordinarily difficult to isolate any population variations due to timber management from background environmental variation which can be substantial from season to season. A monitoring strategy (Buckingham, 1997) based on intensive and repeated five-minute bird counts has been devised. However, there remain significant concerns as to the reliability and effectiveness of this method for providing absolute indices, repeatable over time with sufficient sensitivity to show true trends. This especially applies in variable country and Buckingham (pers comm, 1997) has commented that resources directed on predator research may be a better course of action.

An intensive avifauna sampling approach is already operating in rimu forests at Okarito Forest in South Westland. The results of a re-measurement program re-started after a twelve year break, covering before and after harvesting were completed in March 1999. The results gave no grounds for concern about decline in species as most changes were within the range of seasonal and annual variation. Robin, riflemen, tits and parakeet show a measured increase over time, (James, pers comm). These results may assist in determining further application of bird monitoring systems. As a minimum, the extensive benchmark surveys conducted over much of the estate will serve to provide a basis for very coarse comparisons over long intervals and at least one site in beech forests will be monitored in similar fashion to Okarito to confirm trends related to avifauna under a managed forest scenario.

9.1.4.2 Invertebrates

Consideration has been given to the capability and usefulness of monitoring invertebrates. The conclusion drawn from advice given is that such a proposal falls into the situation where there is no established systematic approach yet applied in New Zealand. Much of the invertebrate fauna of the nation is yet undescribed and the extraordinarily expensive process would yield an invaluable database which would nevertheless be unable to be benchmarked against surrounding lands. It is very unlikely that significant progress will be made in surrounding lands in the near future.

Because invertebrate fauna serves an essential ecosystem function, targeted research will be used to evaluate and interpret the impacts of the management system on ubiquitous fauna. Such research has been underway for two years (Evans A, Entomology Division, Lincoln University). The results to date have indicated no significant differences between control, treatment and natural forest gaps. The study will be scaled up to test for any impacts.

There are some, usually larger, invertebrate fauna (none identified in the beech estate) that are known to be rare or threatened. Predation is thought to be the prime cause. It is expected that any benefits derived from the avifauna research may also be conferred upon this segment of the ecosystem. To this extent the research into predation will also seek to include one or two

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target ‘macro-invertebrates’ if program funding is supported in part by FRST Public Good Science Funds.

9.1.4.3 Soils

Any extraction process has the potential to remove nutrients from the system. However, wood harvesting over long rotations will be at very low levels relative to other land-based activities. No systematic New Zealand wide monitoring systems have yet been implemented. As a coarse indicator of soil status, pH has been collected from soil samples in the PSP system. The approach noted in section 9.1.3 (5) above is being developed around internationally recognised criteria and as such fits well with the monitoring objectives of this proposal. Advice given nevertheless suggests the impacts of log removal as proposed will be too low for wide scale monitoring to detect any changes. Instead a more localised intensive research based program may be able to prove or disprove any adverse effects over time.

9.2 Audit Procedures

Section 1.4 of the TWCL Sustainable Management Overview Plan states that there will be an audit process undertaken on a five yearly basis to confirm that management and operational practices are inline with the prescribed requirements.

Submissions from the public during the Government public comment process indicated that there were concerns about the depth and comprehensiveness of the proposed audit process. Some of this probably arose from a lack of detail in the plans as to the other audit structures operating within TWCL. Nevertheless audit is a very important element in TWCL’s adaptive management system and TWCL has responded to clarify and improve the audit process.

9.2.1 Clarifying the Current Process

TWCL operations are subject to a number of audit processes that have developed to fulfil the objectives of a variety of stakeholder interests. While TWCL is currently exempt from the legal requirements of the Forests Amendment Act, its plans are subject to “compliance approval” as if they were bound by the Act. (Current changes to the legislation will shortly bring TWCL under this Act.) MAF undertakes this process, in dialogue with the Department of Conservation, as if it would apply to private landholders.

In addition, TWCL operations are subject to 6 monthly field checks by MAF, 6 monthly physical and environmental audits by external auditors and more comprehensive 5 yearly audits. These five-year audits do include ecological as well as forestry matters as prescribed in the management plans and do make recommendations for improvement as well as record matters of compliance. The general natures of the Audit processes are illustrated below in Diagram 3.

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9.2.2 Five Yearly Audit

An independent audit of all key operations will be undertaken five yearly by an agency fully competent in forestry and environmental practice. With regard to TWCL’s responsibilities under the RMA, the scope of the audit shall be:
  1. to ensure the documented prescriptions and ecological performance targets in the sustainable management plans are being followed and that consent conditions are being met;
  2. to ensure the maintenance of records are appropriate and up to date;
  3. to audit and approve any changes to management plans enacted or requested by TWCL due to new information presented or data collected (TWCL recognises that departure from any of the specific controls put forward in the mitigation measures section of this document which would increase the adverse effects of the proposal would require a variation of the resource consent); and,
  4. to identify any corrective actions deemed necessary to be implemented over the forthcoming five year harvest period.

On completion of the audit, an audit report will be prepared by the auditor which will be made available to the Crown, the consent authority, and the public, through its website and Annual Reports.


9.2.3 Proposed Audit Structures

At the time the Beech Management Plans were written it was signalled that TWCL would be seeking to attain ISO 14001 Environmental Accreditation. TWCL has subsequently gained accreditation under that standard. This process enables auditing of all the standards inclusive of the prescriptions (rules) in the beech plans that the company has undertaken to meet. It also requires an automatic compliance with all relevant laws and the public disclosure of audit results.

Under the present audit structure, the ISO process represents an additional layer of audit. However the very nature of its structure should enable most current processes to be subsumed within the ISO framework. TWCL proposes over time to move toward a more streamlined process that seeks to attain a streamlined cumulative flow of checks and audits all of which are managed through the ISO 14001 structure (see Diagram 3). This structure would also be compatible with the introduction of a further independent third party forest certification system such as the Forest Stewardship Council.

TWCL are negotiating with its owners in respect of this matter now. Should the owner not wish to accept these proposals then as a minimum the structure illustrated in Diagram 3 will prevail.

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9.2.4 Independent 3 rd Party Oversight

Some submitters to the Government process sought the inclusion of independent third party oversight of the management system in the Audit processes. TWCL has signalled to the Crown that it is not adverse to such a body and that it could be effectively incorporated within the proposed audit system.

Such a system could look like that shown in diagram 4, however any decision to proceed is a matter for the Crown.









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Pages 116 to 120 inclusive contained maps that have already been displayed in chapters above.


TWC proposed audit procedures.




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TWC proposed envirnmental management procedures.



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Watson, B. 1997: Social and recreational impact assessment. Consultant.

Walters, C.J. and Holling, C.S. 1990: Large Scale Management Experiments and Learning by Doing. Ecology Vol.71, No 6.

Wardle, J.A. 1984: The New Zealand beeches – ecology, utilisation and management. NZFS, 447 pp.

Whittaker, T. 1997: Herpetological survey of working circles 2, 3 and 4, Grey Valley and Maruia Valley North Westland.

Note:

Additional as yet unpublished reports on surveys undertaken and/ or completed in 1999, since publishing of the TWCL Overview Plan, have been undertaken by Buckingham (birds), Whittaker (reptiles) and Evans (entomology).

END

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