7.3.b Enforcement of laws related to forests

Rationale

This indicator provides information on the extent to which forest- related laws and regulations are enforced. The ability to successfully prosecute offenders is essential in combating harmful activities that may threaten forests and their sustainable management (e.g. illegal forest conversion and illegal logging).

Current state

Laws and regulations are enforced both by central and local government agencies.

Ministry for Primary Industries

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) enforces the Forests Act 1949 and parts of the Biosecurity Act 1993. Enforcement includes bringing prosecutions against those who contravene the Acts and their regulations.

Forests Act 1949

Part 3A of the Forests Act applies to most of the privately owned indigenous forests. The number of prosecutions under this Act (generally brought for illegal harvesting of indigenous timber) has been low in recent years. This reflects an efficient control system of sawmill registration, improved understanding by forest owners of the provisions of the Act and ongoing monitoring by MPI. In isolated areas, however, smaller scale offences can be difficult to detect.

In 2011, MPI prosecuted the largest over-harvest of indigenous timber since the sustainable forest management provisions were enacted in 1993. The defendant harvested 588 cubic metres, while the permitted volume was 373 cubic metres. Fines totalling $134 000 were imposed and the timber was forfeited to the Crown.

Biosecurity Act 1993

MPI has a specialist enforcement team with powers of prosecution for breaches of the Biosecurity Act 1993. Penalties for offences against the provisions of the Act vary according to the nature of the offence. For an individual person, penalties range up to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, a fine not exceeding $100 000, or both. In the case of a corporation, the penalties involve fines of up to $200 000.

New Zealand is relatively free of major pests and diseases owing to its geographic isolation, and effective biosecurity processes from pre- to post- border are important. Incoming passengers and freight are checked for the presence of items that could be carrying dangerous pests and diseases. The maximum penalty for knowingly making a false declaration about possessing such items is a fine of up to $100 000, or imprisonment for up to five years. An instant fine of $400 is levied on anyone who completes a declaration card incorrectly or forgets to declare items.

Local government

Local government (regional, district and city councils) primarily implements the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) (see Indicator 7.1.a).

Under section 314 of the RMA, enforcement orders can be sought by a council or any person from the Environment Court that:

“…require a person to cease, or prohibit a person from commencing, anything done or to be done by, or on behalf of, that person that:
– contravenes or is likely to contravene the Act, any regulations, a rule in a plan, a resource consent, or certain other provisions;
– is, or is likely to be, noxious, dangerous, offensive, or objectionable to an extent that it has or is likely to have an adverse effect on the environment.”

Enforcement orders can also require a person to do something that is considered necessary to ensure compliance with the Act, any regulations, a rule in a plan, a resource consent and certain other provisions, and to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the environment caused by, or on behalf of, that person.

An authorised enforcement officer can serve an abatement notice under the RMA on any person for a similar range of circumstances as outlined above. An abatement notice is a warning to the recipient that (s)he is contravening, or is likely to contravene, the provisions of the RMA.

Penalties for offences vary, depending on their nature. For any person they extend to imprisonment for up to two years or a fine not exceeding $300 000, and where the offence is a continuing one, a fine not exceeding $10 000 for every day that the offence continues.

Regional pest management strategies for plant and animal pests are drawn up and administered by local government under the Biosecurity Act 1993. If a land occupier fails to comply with any rule in a strategy, the relevant regional council may require the landowner to undertake specified actions to address the situation. Failure to comply with a legal direction can result in the regional council entering onto the land to carry out the work itself, and subsequently recovering actual and reasonable costs from the landowner.

Trends

Compliance with forest-related legislation is encouraged through education in the first instance. Abatement notices and enforcement orders can be used under the Resource Management Act 1991. Where offending occurs, the laws are rigorously enforced through prosecutions. Financial penalties are provided for under relevant legislation, including the Forests Act, as is imprisonment for some offences under the Biosecurity Act 1993 and Resource Management Act 1991.

Enforcement of forest laws continues to be a high priority for government agencies.

Trend Status

Data Quality H

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