Forest steward holds itself to high standards

Forestry company Nelson Management managing director Lees Seymour  responds to comments from Green MP Steffan Browning on the Havelock estuary.

The state of the Havelock Estuary is an issue that concerns everyone. The Marlborough District Council commissioned reports on mud sediments in the Pelorus and Kaituna catchments and these indicate that these water bodies are important resources for anyone with an interest in the environment.

The alleged greenwashing of environmental management serves no-one's interests, least of all Nelson Management (the Richmond-based company that manages Nelson Forests). That is not an approach that I support or condone.

Nelson Management strives to operate our business sustainably. For us, that has always included rigorous environmental practices, the most carefully planned and managed planting and harvesting practices, as well as the development and sustainable management of our people.

We strive to be an open company and regularly meet with neighbours, local authorities, DOC and Fish & Game. We are truly open to engaging with any and all stakeholders to improve our management and to help people understand why and how we do things and how we fit into our community.

We have met with Steffan Browning and the Friends of Pelorus on numerous occasions. We listen to the concerns raised and we act on them. We hold ourselves to account and we expect others to do the same.

There are numerous examples of how this approach has been used and we are proud of our record of community and stakeholder engagement. That is one of the reasons we developed our environmental management system in 1996, based on the ISO 14001 standard. We were the third company in New Zealand to be accredited under this standard and the first forestry company.

 

Last year we maintained certification to the Forest Stewardship Council forest management standard adapted for New Zealand plantations, following a rigorous assessment of our operations. As anyone who has read the council's reports will know, they do not point the finger of blame at any one party. In fact they are very careful not to do so.

They describe a complex picture of contributory factors for sedimentation. This includes the ongoing efforts to eradicate the invasive weed spartina (exotic cord grass) by DOC. These important efforts include a 50ha eradication programme started in 2003. It seems that these efforts are a more likely cause of the differences in sedimentation observed between 2001 and 2014.

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We also know from our experience in other areas that the impact of storms cannot be underestimated. These are beyond anyone's control and impact all land types. Land-use experts have been involved in reviewing the storms in Pelorus-Kaituna and elsewhere in the top of the south, and have commented that given soil types in the catchment and the volume of rain, there is not much anyone can do to prevent these causing erosion and increased sedimentation.

That said, however, our company is committed to both managing and minimising environmental impacts on water quality.

We recognise that a careful, well-planned approach to harvesting is critical. We make sure our highly trained harvest planning team always apply the most stringent monitoring standards to their work, and that they minimise the adverse impact of activities.

Similarly, we take a very considered approach to forestry road building and skid sites. Unnecessary tracks and over-sized skid sites are not part of the way we do things.

I do not agree with Steffan Browning's unsubstantiated claim that "massive pulses from forestry harvest operations" are the main contributor to recent Pelorus-Havelock sediment. Nor do I believe the council reports provide any factual basis for his opinion.

Forest stewardship is something in which our employees and contractors take a great deal of pride. These are the people who monitor the streams in our forest estate, who plan our harvesting and road building activities and work for our harvesting and silviculture contractors. They use science, practical experience, industry training and best management practices and I stand behind what they do and the standards they uphold.

We will always have more to learn and we expect our community to hold us to account. We will continue to work with all parties who engage with us in a constructive way. I recommend that people read the reports on the council website. If anyone wants to better understand our approach, we welcome the opportunity for dialogue.

 - The Marlborough Express

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