Another Gisborne forestry company loses accreditation

8:31 am on 22 April 2024
230414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Christchurch. Logs in the port.

File photo. Many logging companies require FSC certification to trade internationally. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

A second Gisborne forestry company within the space of two months has lost its sustainability accreditation.

Aratu Forests' Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certificate was suspended on March 28 by Swiss auditing company Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS).

This follows forestry company Ernslaw One's FSC certification being suspended in February.

Aratu Forests chief executive officer Neil Woods declined to comment on the suspension but said they were working towards getting accredited again.

Gisborne's certifiers have been in the spotlight recently after an Audit Services International (ASI) report raised shortcomings.

FSC certifiers SGS and Preferred by Nature were issued four major non-conformities, just one non-conformity short of ASI's policy to consider a suspension of both certifying bodies.

The FSC certification can be found stamped across products globally and is a prerequisite for selling logs, timber and paper products on the international market.

It signifies to consumers that the wood linked to the product upholds responsible environmental standards, has undergone cultural impact assessments and is not linked to deforestation or environmental crimes.

Ernslaw One was able to keep its certification after being fined in December 2022 for its role in the damage to homes, farms and infrastructure during a storm in Tolaga Bay during Queen's Birthday Weekend in 2018.

Similarly, Aratu Forests kept its qualification in 2020 after a fine from Gisborne District Council of $379,500 under the Resource Management Act for discharging contaminants of forestry waste and silt, which entered into waterways.

This fine was inherited from an event in 2018, which happened under the previous ownership of Hikurangi Forest Farms (HFF). Aratu owner New Forests purchased HFF in July 2019.

Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti (MTT), a Gisborne group that organised a local petition calling for land-use rule changes, contacted FSC last year to ask why companies convicted for illegal harvesting practices were able to retain global certification.

Forestry is a big industry in Gisborne, but it has also come under fire after slash caused damage during severe weather events in recent years.

Forestry is a big industry in Gisborne, but it has also come under fire after slash caused damage during severe weather events in recent years. Photo: Supplied / LDR

MTT spokesperson Manu Caddie said after they contacted the certifying body, FSC sent an independent auditor to New Zealand from ASI who audits companies internationally.

Another spokesperson of MTT, Mere Tamanui (from Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti iwi) said it was good to see FSC and ASI were taking the situation in Tairāwhiti seriously.

"We are happy to hear they are coming to look at the audits of Aratu Forests in the Ūawa catchment," Tamanui said.

Tamanui said that since 2018, their whānau had lacked access to cultural practices at their kura at Mangatokerau River.

"We can no longer access our Olympic pools (what the community calls their water holes), let alone undertake other culturally significance activities and connections."

Nor could they set fishing nets or access any te manu kai spots.

"No cultural impact assessment was done. The cost to our kura and Mangatunatanga (local knowledge, whakapapa, lifestyle and essence of the land) has been huge.

"Our school doesn't have access to intergenerational knowledge handed down, she said.

"We're in a time of mourning. A significant component of land management should be that cultural practices are protected."

MTT member Tui Warmenhoven said it was pleasing to see they were taking this seriously.

"But clearly something needs to change to reassure customers and communities that FSC standards in New Zealand can still be trusted," she said.

A representative of MTT is planning to visit FSC headquarters in Germany next month to discuss the situation in New Zealand.

Following the recent suspensions, MTT have said that auditors will return to New Zealand to review audits of three more companies.

Gisborne District Council declined to comment on the latest suspension.

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