Confirming the application process
This service is available from 1 January 2023. Instructions on how to apply and an application form will be available in early 2023.
If your forest has been damaged by an event outside your control
If you have post-1989 forest land in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), you must account for changes to the amount of carbon it stores.
Natural disasters and other accidental events can damage forest land. Where this damage fells, burns, kills, uproots, or destroys the forest, the forest is treated as cleared in the ETS. This can result in a need to pay New Zealand Units (NZUs or units) for the decrease in stored carbon. However, from 2023, you can apply to pause carbon accounting if such an event damages your forest. This is called a "temporary adverse event suspension". If your application is approved, you won’t need to pay units for the decrease in stored carbon.
This pause will last until your forest:
- is re-established (replanted or regenerated), and
- achieves the same level of carbon storage as it had before the event.
Types of events that apply
A range of events beyond your control may cause temporary damage to your forest. In the legislation, these are known as "adverse events". These include:
- wind throw
- snowfall, floods, and drought
- volcanic eruptions and geothermal events
- earthquakes and tsunamis
- pests and diseases
- naturally caused fires
- accidental events (such as browsing by animals and controlled burns becoming uncontrolled).
For your forest to be eligible for a pause in carbon accounting:
- the event must have cleared at least 1 whole hectare of forest land
- the damage must be significant enough that the trees no longer have, or are likely to have, more than 30% crown cover
- the forest must be expected to be re-established, and to store the same amount of carbon as it did before the event
- the event must have occurred after 1 January 2023
- an emissions return cannot have been submitted for the area since the event occurred (unless you're submitting an additional application for an event that's ongoing).
Further clearing after the event
Intentional clearing, such as harvesting, of mortally damaged trees in response to the event is covered by the pause in accounting.
For example, if an area of forest has been mortally damaged by disease but isn't dead yet, you can clear it. The damage from the event must affect at least 1 hectare before you do any clearing, to be eligible.
Additional clearing of non-damaged trees is allowed in some circumstances, such as for:
- health or safety of people
- site access
- preventing further disturbances from the event.
How different forests are affected by a pause in carbon accounting
In the ETS, different responsibilities apply depending on:
- the kind of forest land
- the accounting method
- the area of the post-1989 forest land you have registered.
A pause in carbon accounting affects some of these forests in different ways.
If carbon accounting is paused for your forest in permanent forestry
You can apply to pause accounting for your permanent forest if it's damaged by an event described above. If your application is approved, the usual penalties for clear-felling permanent forest land won't apply.
Further clearing of damaged permanent forest is restricted. You can only clear the damaged trees for health and safety reasons or site access.
If carbon accounting is paused for forest land with sample plots to measure for carbon tables
If you have 100 hectares or more of post-1989 forest land in the ETS, you need to establish and measure sample plots on your land. The information you collect is used to create carbon tables specifically for your forest. These are known as "participant-specific tables". You need these to calculate the carbon changes in your emissions returns.
Carbon accounting may be paused for forest land with sample plots on it. If this happens, you don't need to collect information at those plots until carbon accounting starts again. You must still measure plots outside the area covered by the suspension as usual.
Damaged land still counts towards the 100-hectare threshold during this time.
If carbon accounting is paused for forest land under averaging accounting
There are 2 methods of carbon accounting in the ETS. If your post-1989 forest land is registered under averaging accounting, the rotation (harvest cycle) that it's on affects whether you can earn units.
If your forest land is on its first rotation when it's damaged and your application to pause carbon accounting is approved, it will still be considered to be on its first rotation when it recovers. This only applies to the areas of forest land that are re-established within 4 years.
Re-establishing your forest
If carbon accounting on your forest land is paused, you have 4 years to re-establish your damaged forest. If there are areas that aren't re-established in 4 years, they stop being eligible for a suspension. This means you become liable for the decrease in carbon and will need to pay units. If the land is considered deforested, you may need to remove it from the ETS.
Forest land is considered to be re-established when it has trees of a forest species growing on it that have, or are likely to grow to have, at least 30% crown cover. Your forest can be re-established through planting or natural regeneration. The new trees don't need to be the same species as the damaged forest. Once these re-established areas store as much carbon as before the event, carbon accounting will start again.
In some cases, damage from a natural event may turn out to be permanent. This means that forest is unable to be replanted or to regenerate on the land. Permanently affected land is treated differently in the ETS. You won't need to pay units if it turns out that the event has permanently prevented the forest from being re-established.
Who to contact
If you have questions about forestry in the ETS:
- email email@example.com
- call 0800 CLIMATE (0800 25 46 28) and select option 2.