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October, 2020

Forest industry says main political parties abandon forest industry

Forest industry says main political parties abandon forest industry at economic and environmental cost

The Labour and National parties’ policies on forestry, leading into the election, are disappointing to forest industry leaders. 

They say the policies jeopardise New Zealand’s post-covid economic recovery and New Zealand reaching its carbon emission goals.

Industry leaders are pointing to recent statements from both the major parties which want to restrict forest planting, as well as potential changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Labour ministers are saying that they want a 50-hectare limit on planting forestry on all but the steepest and most erodible land.  They say local councils should be given the power to impose these restrictions.

Labour says carbon offsetting is threatening rural communities and unfairly competing with farming.

But Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor, says the recent PwC report, on forestry compared with farm economies, shows that forestry should be seen as a lifeline for some rural communities, and not as a theat.

Farm Forestry Association President, Hamish Levack, says statements by some in the National Party are equally unfounded and negative.

“National Leader, Judith Collins, has complained that pine trees give her hay fever while others in her caucus have complained that plantation forestry planting should be restricted,” Hamish Levack says.

Phil Taylor also points to the National Party Manifesto which he says plans to reintroduce bureaucratic obstacles in the way of overseas forest investment. And it plans to review the place of forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme.”

“If this is a genuine attempt by National to severely decrease industrial greenhouse gas emissions over the next few years, then that is wonderful.”

“In the meantime though, National needs to understand forestry is a vital short-term tool to get New Zealand through the transition.”

Phil Taylor says ACT seems to want to copy the main political parties, with some completely unfounded idea that overseas investors were receiving planting subsidies from the government, and these – non-existent – subsidies should be stopped and restrictions put on where trees can be planted to maintain food production.

But Hamish Levack says ACT is at least on the right track with its wish to have carbon locked into timber products recognised as carbon-capture from the atmosphere in the Emissions Trading Scheme, just as trees are recognised.

Phil Taylor says the Green Party policy sounds the least negative for the forest industry. 

“It encourages forestry because of what the Greens say is its important contributions to water quality, greenhouse gas sequestration, and economic success.”

“But then Co-Leader Marama Davidson is quoted in the media as saying pine trees were inferior to indigenous forests at carbon capture – which is quite wrong.”

Phil Taylor points to The Opportunities Party’s manifesto support for gene editing.

“Most politicians avoid talking about the advantages of this technology.”

“It’s great that TOP has raised this, as our New Zealand primary sector is increasingly being left behind by our competition in the rest of the world, though completely misplaced fears of what gene editing actually is.”

Phil Taylor also acknowledges the New Zealand First Party forest policy.

“It supports things which are important for us, such as industry training.”

“But most importantly, I have to say that Shane Jones, as Forestry Minister, has done a great job of looking after our industry concerns and ambitions.”

“We haven’t supported everything he’s wanted to do, but in the end, a track record can be far more important than promises.”

Phil Taylor ‘ph 027 487 6890

Hamish Levack ‘ph 04 476 6787

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