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November, 2022

Pine conspiracy needs reality check

Farm Foresters are saying journalists and commentators need to educate themselves about the reality of plantation forestry.

The FFA President, Graham West says ‘Frequent anti-pine rants on Newstalk ZB and in print media repeat the same misinformation about pines that is simply not true.’

‘This climate of emotional dogma against carbon sequestration jeopardises New Zealand’s ability to make any real change to how our greenhouse gas emissions are heating the planet’

‘Surely, they should have enough common sense to check statements, or at least give these emotion filled opinions a quick logic test,’ Graham West says.

‘The most recent one is a rehash of the completely untrue fable that pine stops growing at age 30 years and then rots.’

“After 60 years of forest research in Rotorua by hundreds of scientists, there is a mountain of evidence that shows this is not true. These statements are at best lazy and at worst malicious.’

‘Everyone has seen very old pine trees in parks and paddocks.  Many go back to the first introduction of pines nearly 150 years ago.’

‘They are ancient and haven’t suddenly developed rot. We have many measured stands of pine that are now well over 100 years old. We have examples of individual radiata pine in the Wellington Botanic Garden that are still standing after 152 years.’

‘While forest fire risk may increase with droughts, with modern forest management practices, the risk is very low. Kaingaroa forest is 190,000ha and has had very few fires in its 100-year history.’

Graham West cites a FENZ report which showed last summer there was nearly four times the number of wildfires on hill country farmland than there were in plantation forests.

‘Furthermore, wood is now being used for thousands of products. Bioplastics, biofuel, heat energy, earthquake resilient structures, are just a few. Wood is used in food as a filler, and to add fibre, in many parts of the world. It doesn’t require fertiliser on most sites.  It doesn’t emit nitrates, and doesn’t need milking twice a day.’

‘Without much tending it grows for at least 70 years and silently absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide.’

‘Global warming from carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is the real issue. The physics of gases reflecting the radiated heat back to earth has been known for more than 50 years.  It’s complex and we have been slow to react.’

‘Meanwhile, alarmist comments of the country covered in pine trees have proliferated. This is despite factual information, such as Beef + Lamb NZ’s recent independent (Orme) report that gives the real estate records of farms sold to forestry related companies’

‘Orme reports the area bought for afforestation last year was 52,000 ha.’

‘Yes, this is an increase from the previous year total of 38,278 ha. But before giving alarm to this rising total, consider how much of New Zealand is in pasture.’

‘Pasture covers approximately 10 million ha, which is about one third of the land area. So, the conversion rate last year can be calculated at about 0.5% per year. At this rate it will take 20 years to convert 10% of farmland to forest.’

‘I suggest at the current rate of climate warming, if we don’t act with some urgency, the change in climate may have reduced pastural production by much more than 10% in 20 years.’

‘This is conjecture but the current pattern of extreme weather events, flooding, erosion, droughts, and wind, doesn’t look promising for shallow rooted crops like pasture.’

Graham West says the important question for the public is ‘At what level of global warming will we decide to seriously address the issue with the technologies in hand?’

‘Our grandchildren will ask us an even harder question “How do we reverse climate change?”

‘Biological sequestration of carbon dioxide is currently the only technology we could deploy at scale to cool the planet.’

Graham West accepts that in the world context we could be seen as virtue signalling to the big emitters.

‘But what else can we do than stand on the moral high ground and tell the world that we have adopted a strategy that includes land use change to get us quickly to carbon zero or carbon negative.’

‘It may only be a 50 – 70-year fix, but it may just give us time to find an alternative.’

‘Our gross emissions of 80 million tonnes per year CO2 e (reduced to net emissions of 55 million tonnes per year CO2 e thanks to forestry sequestration) have not diminished at all in the past 20 years.’

‘Giving out misinformation about forestry science is simply a distraction from the bigger issues and not helping to produce a constructive dialogue.’

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