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Cultural, economic, environmental and social considerations key in revision of AS/NZS 4708 Sustainable forest management - requirements

Standards New Zealand, in collaboration with Standards Australia and Responsible Wood, has published an update to AS/NZS 4708 Sustainable forest management – requirements, helping protect economies and ecosystems.

Harbour where timber is being loaded onto a boat

Image credit: Trey Ratcliff CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Helping forest managers do the right thing

Certification against AS/NZS 4708 helps break down barriers to trade and forest managers comply with importing and exporting regulations. It also gives them a competitive edge by setting out practices that are in sync with international benchmarks. Furthermore, the updated standard aligns with global requirements under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) accreditation.

For plantations, native forests, and those who depend on them

Covering both native forests and plantations, the standard establishes a systematic approach to forest management. When a forest owner is certified against the standard, they can show that their products have been grown and harvested at a location that is managed according to clearly defined cultural, economic, environmental and social requirements.

With recent bushfire seasons being some of the worst in Australia’s recorded history and fire seasons expected to become longer in both Australia and New Zealand, the standard development committee was mindful of climate change impacts. As such, AS/NZS 4708 includes a framework to reduce emissions, acknowledges the contribution of science and promotes adaptations to change. Although the standard is voluntary, it can form part of a larger arsenal for protecting precious New Zealand and Australian forests.

Environmental responsibility recognises the relationships and ecological connectivity between people and the natural resources (air, water, land) and biodiversity (flora and fauna) that make up a forest’s complex ecosystem. With eight million hectares of native forest and over two million hectares of plantation forest, responsible forest management directly impacts nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s land area.

Leading national voices helped identify what’s important to New Zealand

“The committee included a broad range of organisations in Australia and New Zealand involved in forest management, forest research, auditing, government, community, and environment, as well as indigenous organisations and labour unions.” said the Chair of the Standard Reference Committee, Dr Gordon Duff.

New Zealand’s interests on the committee were represented by the Federation of Māori Authorities, First Union, New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, New Zealand Forest Certification Association, New Zealand Forest Owners Association, New Zealand Institute of Forestry, Ministry of Primary Industries, New Zealand Timber Industry Federation, Scion (New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited), and Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association New Zealand.

The inclusion of cultural responsibility gives acknowledgement to working with Māori as tangata whenua and incorporating the collective wisdom of knowledge holders and cultural practices. This is especially relevant as Māori are becoming the largest exotic forest owners in New Zealand, according to SCION.

Responsible management needs to consider economic responsibility in protecting the annual gross income of $6.5 billion in export value to New Zealand’s economy. Social responsibility requires forest and sector-related business owners to consider the 35,000 people employed in wood production, processing and commercial sector through living wages, safe working conditions and employment rights and understanding the needs and expectations of stakeholders.

Follow good practice and keep forests and associated industries flourishing

AS/NZS 4708:2021 Sustainable forest management – requirements set the path for good practice in protecting more than the forests, but the relationship they play with all that rely on them.