4.2.a Proportion of forest management activities that meet best management practices or other relevant legislation to protect soil resources


The indicator provides information about the extent to which soil resource protection, legislation and best management practices have been identified and integrated into forest management activities. Inappropriate activity may result in the loss of soil nutrients, forest productivity and other ecosystem services that soils provide.

Current state

New Zealand has legislative mechanisms, through the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Forests Act 1949, that address activities that may have adverse effects on soil resources. All commercial forest management must meet the requirements of these Acts. The New Zealand Environmental Code of Practice for Plantation Forestry and New Zealand Forest Road Engineering Manual also address the mitigation of impacts from forestry operations on soils and are widely promoted by forestry associations. About 61 percent of the planted forest estate has international Forest Stewardship Council certification, and national certification schemes are being progressed.

Resource Management Act 1991

All forest management activities that may adversely affect the soil are subject to the requirements of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). Proposals that will result in disturbances or changes to soil- related resources will usually require a resource consent to be granted by the appropriate local authority. Resource consents commonly specify a number of conditions that must be met in undertaking forestry (or other) activities.

The RMA approach to environmental management centres on the ideas of sustainable management and the integrated management of resources. Regional and district plans are prepared by 78 regional, district and city councils, to assist them to carry out their functions under the RMA. These plans deal with issues relating to soil disturbance through activities such as earthworks, cultivation and removal of vegetation.

Regional councils collect and hold a large amount of soil resource information. Regional councils monitor, plan and report activities that relate to soil resources in their regions.

Forests Act 1949

Part 3A of the Forests Act 1949 focuses on privately owned indigenous forests. It promotes the principle of sustainable management by allowing a level of timber harvest that provides for the management of natural (non-timber) values. Landowners and forest managers seeking approval for sustainable forest management plans and permits on private land must comply with Part 3A of the Act. The Act is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and contains requirements relating to soil values.

The fifth edition of MPI’s Standards and Guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Indigenous Forests was published in 2013. It reflects the statutory requirements under Part 3A of the Act and includes a criterion and standards section with indicators relating to soil quality. These cover the siting and construction of earthworks to minimise soil disturbance, and minimising soil compaction and the erosive effects of machine use.

Environmental Code of Practice and Road Engineering Manual

Codes of practice focus on promoting sound management practices and are particularly important for soil conservation.

In 2007, the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (NZFOA) published Part 1: Best Environmental Management Practices of the New Zealand Environmental Code of Practice for Plantation Forestry. This code replaced the 1993 New Zealand Forestry Code of Practice.

Four more parts have subsequently been included in the New Zealand Environmental Code of Practice:

  • Part 2: Recognising environmental values
  • Part 3: Planning for good environmental outcomes
  • Part 4: Resources and references
  • Part 5: Training.

The Code is a practical means of helping forest planners, contractors and operators to accomplish required levels of environmental performance, consistent with good health and safety and financial performance and the community and regulatory expectations that they face. Soil conservation and quality values and issues are covered in most of the Best Environmental Practices and, in particular, for earthworks, harvesting and mechanical land preparation.

In 2011, NZFOA published the New Zealand Forest Road Engineering Manual. The objective of the Manual is to ensure that roads, water crossings and related infrastructure in planted forests are fit for purpose and are designed and constructed to meet high environmental standards.

Members of the NZFOA and the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association own or manage more than
85 percent of the country’s planted forests. Both organisations strongly endorse the New Zealand Environmental Code of Practice and New Zealand Forest Road Engineering Manual for their applicability to all forest owners throughout New Zealand, and recommend that their members adhere to the principles and practices.

Forest certification

Forest certification schemes recognise good forest management, including safeguarding soil and water resources.

Most large-scale forest owners in New Zealand have international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. This provides a third-party guarantee that the products come from forests that have been managed in accordance with FSC principles and criteria.

In FSC terms, this verifies that the forest products come from responsibly-managed forests. Principles 9 and 10 and their associated criteria include the requirements to control erosion of vulnerable soils and slopes, manage infrastructure development, transport activities and silviculture so soils are protected, and manage harvesting of timber so that environmental values (including soils) are protected.

The gross forest area under FSC certification is 1.499 million hectares, of which 1.054 million hectares are productive forest areas (61 percent of the planted forest estate). This includes 12 000 hectares of indigenous forest managed under Part 3A of the Forests Act 1949.

A New Zealand standard is being prepared with the expectation that FSC endorsement will be sought when it is completed.

Standards New Zealand published standard NZS AS 4708:2014 Sustainable Forest Management in May 2014. It is expected that endorsement under the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification will be sought for this standard.


Since 2008, new sections have been included in the New Zealand Environmental Code of Practice, and the New Zealand Forest Road Engineering Manual has been published.

Trend Status

Data Quality M / H

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