Audit finds ‘major non-conformities’ in forest certification

March 1, 2024
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In last week’s issue, we built in several stories relating to east coast forest companies, local Councils and other landowners who were working hard to rectify the impacts of downstream debris damage to communities, farms and infrastructure one year on from the devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle.

RNZ this week followed this up with an article on a “damning report” that has found “major non-conformities” in the way East Coast forests were granted a stamp of environmental stewardship, despite “compelling evidence” of problems.

An audit of the auditors who gave Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to forests owned by Malaysian company Ernslaw One has found serious shortcomings in the checks carried out over multiple years.

Intense storms in 2017, 2018 and 2023 caused massive landslides from logging sites in FSC-certified forests, devastating properties, roads and bridges. The FSC badge is supposed to prove a forest is under responsible management, so some green advocates were surprised when Ernslaw One kept its FSC label, after being fined in court for breaking environmental law.

Late last year, an independent assessor from overseas auditors ASI visited Gisborne to check on the forests on behalf of FSC and speak to people in the area, after locals and green groups complained. The findings were released on Tuesday, after FSC earlier confirmed Ernslaw’s FSC certificate was suspended, along with that of another forestry owner in the area, PF Olsen.

The audit found serious shortcomings in the way the New Zealand office of auditors SGS carried out checks on Ernslaw’s compliance. FSC says the problems concern SGS, not Ernslaw itself, and SGS needs to show how it will improve. SGS hasn’t lost its ability to certify forests. A second certifier, Preferred by Nature (formerly Nepcon), was also audited, after it signed off on PF Olsen’s FSC certificates.

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Source: RNZ