7.5.b Public participation and conflict resolution in forest-related decision making

Rationale

This indicator provides information on the processes that promote public participation in forest- related decision making and reduce or resolve conflict amongst forest stakeholders. Public participation in decision making processes and conflict resolution efforts can lead to decisions that are widely accepted and result in better forest management.

Current state

Information

The Official Information Act 1982 makes official information more freely available to members of the public of New Zealand. This helps their effective participation in the making and administration of laws and policies. The main principle governing release of official information is that “…information shall be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it” (section 5). Section 6 of the Act identifies the reasons for which official information can be withheld.

A wide range of general information and data related to the New Zealand forestry sector is freely available through government departments, particularly the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand. This helps informed public participation in decision-making processes.

Central government

National policy influencing forestry is developed by central government. In the policy development process, public consultation may be undertaken.

The New Zealand Parliamentary system has one legislative chamber, an elected House of
Representatives. All legislative Bills are referred to select committees (small groups of Members of Parliament) for consideration. Select committee consideration allows the public to examine and have input, through written and oral submissions, to draft legislation before it passes into law.

Local government

At regional and district levels, the Resource Management Act 1991 provides for Māori and members of the wider community to take part in planning the management of resources of their area. Examples are public consultation and input in the initial stages of preparing policy statements and plans, and submissions to local governments after the public has been notified about policy statements, plans or plan changes. Certain applications for resource consents for proposed activities with potentially adverse environmental effects must be publicly notified and allow for submissions.

Long-term council community plans are prepared under the Local Government Act 2002. Part of their purpose is to provide an opportunity for participation by the public in decision-making processes on activities that are to be undertaken by regional, district and city councils.

Department of Conservation

Involving the community in caring for its heritage through education, sponsorships, awards, community involvement programmes, partnerships and events such as Conservation Week is an important part of DOC’s work. Public involvement activities range from national-level initiatives to locally run community programmes.

DOC provides a range of levels of engagement for the public. Its visitor information centres provide interpretation of New Zealand’s indigenous ecosystems. There are volunteer programmes and annual events such as Arbor Day. Information about New Zealand’s biodiversity is also made available through mechanisms such as educational resources for schools, fact sheets, scientific papers, public discussion documents, maps and media articles. DOC’s website provides access to these resources. In addition, DOC supports community-initiated conservation projects, either on conservation land administered by DOC or on other land with significant conservation value.

Ministry for Primary Industries

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has a specific focus on the collection, collation and dissemination of information and statistical data concerning commercial planted forests, the primary processing of wood products, and international and domestic trade of wood products. These cover quarterly and annual releases of statistics on logs and roundwood removals and on the production of sawn timber, panel products, pulp, paper and paperboard, and wood chips. The exports and imports of forest products are covered by annual releases of statistics. The information is available on the MPI website.

This information facilitates informed public participation in forestry issues and decision-making processes.

Commercial forest owners

More than 90 percent (by area) of the commercial forest estate is held in various forms of private ownership. About 61 percent of the total area (mostly held by large-scale forest owners) has certification under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International Standard, and a national standard for FSC endorsement is in preparation. Another national standard (NZS AS 4708:2014 Sustainable Forest Management) was published by Standards New Zealand in May 2014, and will provide a further avenue for forest certification when auditors have been accredited. It is anticipated that endorsement of this standard will be sought under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The FSC International Standard, the standard in preparation for FSC endorsement, and NZS
AS 4708:2014, all variously contain requirements for forest managers to engage on forest management matters with affected and interested stakeholders, with local communities and with indigenous peoples.

Other opportunities for public participation may occur when forest managers seek resource consents under regional and district council planning procedures.

Conflict resolution

Several conflict resolution processes are available to stakeholders and members of the public:

  • judicial review can be sought for any decision, proposed decision or refusal to exercise a power of decision by the Executive of Parliament or a public body according to law
  • the Ombudsman handles complaints against government agencies and access to official information
  • legislation may include appeal procedures through the courts
  • the Disputes Tribunal deals with many types of disputes with a value of up to $15 000 (and, with agreement, up to $20 000)
  • parties may agree to arbitration or mediation (professional arbitrators and mediators are available).

Trends

Good information to support public participation in forest-related decision making is available for the commercial planted forests sector and the conservation estate. A range of legislatively based and semi-formal mechanisms provide for public input to decision-making processes on resource management. Dispute resolution processes exist in some situations.

Forest certification has increased opportunities for community consultation in commercial forestry.

Trend Status

Data Quality H

Supporting Material:

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