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November, 2019

March on Parliament deliberately created confusion

Large and small scale and Māori foresters say the 50 Shades of Green march on parliament on Thursday (eds 14 November) highlights deliberately created confusion about the true nature and recent scope of forestry expansion.

Farm Forestry Association President Hamish Levack says 50 Shades of Green demands on the government to restrict forest planting would not be supported by many farmers he knows.

“There’s at least ten thousand owners of farm woodlots in New Zealand.  If they want to retire some more of their farms to earn some more income by expanding their woodlots then that should be their right.”

“And if they want to plant out the whole farm that should be their right as well, and shouldn’t be stopped by some misinformed fringes of the farming community.”

He cites a recent Beef + Lamb commission report on the Wairoa District, which concluded that a typical sheep and beef farm was unable to complete with forestry returns over a 60-year period.

Hamish Levack says the 50 Shades of Green petition demanding the government prevent farmers planting trees to offset carbon emissions sounds to him like climate change denial.

“Farmers who contribute towards reducing New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions should be congratulated and not banned.”

“I also can’t understand what they have against the government’s Billion Trees programme either.  It’s a fund which is only available to farmers and only for part of a farm.  I would think they would be in favour of this.”

Hamish Levack says it’s also ironic that some of the leaders of 50 Shades of Green identify with the wool industry, yet then criticise logs because timber can’t be eaten.

“Timber product exports are worth ten times the total value of the wool industry for New Zealand.  Our ratio of further-processed product exports is two and a half times that achieved by the wool industry.”

“It is true that neither timber nor wool can be eaten, but at least there is a good market for timber.  And that includes for making paper products, which are increasingly substituting for non-biodegradable plastics.”

John Bishara is Chair of the Ngāti Tuwharetoa Māori Trust Board, CEO of the Lake Taupō Forest Trust, and adviser to the Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust, and is very familiar with the impacts of regulation on land use flexibility.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa own substantial areas of land in the Lake Taupō catchment - much of this is managed for farming, forestry, or a combination of the two, while significant areas also remain as undeveloped indigenous forest.

“When looked at as a whole, the utilisation of Ngāti Tūwharetoa land is proven to be making a far greater contribution to the protection of the Lake Taupō environment than that of other landowners in the catchment. This reflects our deeply held desire, and responsibility as kaitiaki of the rohe, to protect the taonga of the lake itself, and the surrounding waters and lands” John Bishara says.

“The tribe has long held that decisions on how we utilise our lands are matters for our many thousands of landowners. While we adhere to the raft of national, regional and district rules which can and do influence how we operate, it must be remembered that we are the perpetual owners of these lands, and we would not welcome further regulatory imposition restricting our land use flexibility.”

Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir is also saying landowners need the options to meet market demands and environmental standards at the same time.

“For forestry that means we are pulling back from planting the most erosion risk terrain, and concentrating on farmland which has been economically marginal for livestock for a long time, but is less expensive to harvest trees on.”

“That means there is concentrated planting at the moment by landowners in some eastern and southern regions of the North Island.  This land will become even more marginal for livestock as climate change increases the frequency of summer droughts.”

“That certainly does not mean the wholesale takeover of farmland, as some media have tried to depict, like The Listener.  It’s just been claiming billions of dollars will flow into New Zealand farms from overseas to convert them into carbon farming.”

“The Listener is misinformed and misinforming.  The Overseas Investment Office requires investors to harvest.  It will not give approval to any carbon farming, let alone billions of dollars’ worth.”

“We also need to remember the plantation forest estate has actually shrunk since 2000.  It’ll take years at the current planting rate to get to the area of plantation forestry we were at two decades ago.”

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