The forestry sector is important to Otago's economy.

However, forestry can have negative effects on our environment, especially water quality. ORC has rules in our Regional Plan: Water (Water Plan) that apply to forestry in Otago to protect our freshwater resources and ecology. There is also the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) that regulate forestry activities to prevent significant adverse environmental effects. 


National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF)

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) come into effect on 1 May 2018. Read more


Why can forestry be a problem for water quality?

Although the effects of harvesting are small when considered over the life of the forest, the short-term impact of this activity can damage the environment and can cause non-compliance with Water Plan and NES-PF rules.

Forestry can cause sediment and debris to enter waterways during harvesting, which can damage aquatic habitat. You would be amazed at the amount of aquatic life you can find in the tiny creeks that run through a forestry block.

  • Excessive woody debris can physically damage streams, and reduce oxygen availability
  • Heavy machinery can cause damage to soils, vegetation, habitat, and stream banks and beds
  • Practices that leave unstable or older trees within riparian zones can be destructive due to the uplifted tree roots destroying stream banks
  • Poor harvesting techniques such as dragging logs through a waterway can cause significant bed and bank damage, and release sediment into the water
  • Harvesting can result in soil erosion, and sediment entering waterways.


What can I do to make sure forestry doesn't harm water quality?

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has developed resources surrounding guidance for specific forestry activities. For each forestry activity, MPI has information on relevant NES-PF regulations, including:

  • the activity definition - what is and isn't covered by the NES-PF
  • conditions you must meet for that activity to be permitted
  • how to determine when the activity requires resource consent.

You can find guidance here for the following activities:

  • Afforestation
  • Pruning and thinning-to-waste
  • Earthworks
  • River crossings
  • Forestry quarrying
  • Harvesting
  • Mechanical land preparation
  • Replanting
  • Support activities:
    • Slash trap activities
    • Indigenous vegetation clearance
    • Non-indigenous vegetation clearance


What happens if things go wrong?

ORC is a regulatory body, and we are responsible for making sure the Resource Management Act 1991 is adhered to.

There are times when rules are broken and the environment is harmed as a result. When this happens we have a number of options available, which are shown in this flowchart.

What kinds of activity might lead to breaches of the water quality rules?

  • Work that exposes soil, such as forest harvesting, site development earthworks, cultivation, or using sacrificial or fallow paddocks. Such activities are prohibited where no measures have been taken to control sediment discharge
  • Working in waterways
  • Bird nest failures
  • Slash mobilized to waterways
  • Depositing and leaving slash in waterways


Further information

For further information please contact or ask for our Coastal Compliance Team on 0800 474 082

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