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Forest Owners Association News Media Statement, 30 August 2017.

Post-election government must put greater focus on forestry

The forest industry says the government after the election needs to put a much greater focus on forestry and suggestions just made by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters lead in that direction, particularly direct government planting, either on its own account or through joint ventures with iwi.
Forest Owners Association President Peter Clark says it is also vital for the government to encourage other investors and farmers to plant out forests.
He says there are potentially many different ways to structure incentives for more afforestation and industry development and not just those outlined by Winston Peters.
“It’s less important what structures you create in government, than what they actually do to encourage more planting, production and locking up carbon in the atmosphere.
Peter Clark says the Emissions Trading Scheme is still a potentially powerful instrument for enabling the government to meet its Paris Agreement commitments on climate change.
“ETS clearly needs change, but the scheme never has been and never will be enough to meet the challenge of increased afforestation by itself.”
“Other critical components are leading by example, enhancing training and recruitment, providing extension services for forest management, introducing equitable rules between different land uses, conducting long term planning and getting an urgent start to major afforestation.
The government says it intends to use an expansion of New Zealand’s plantation forest area through the ETS to sequester carbon and so help New Zealand meet its Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Peter Clark says the forest industry accepts the direction of the recent London based Vivid Economics Report that the New Zealand plantation forest estate would have to expand by up to 1.5 million hectares for New Zealand to meet its Paris targets, rather than spending billions on offshore carbon credits to try to achieve that result.
“The government can take a lead in getting trees into the ground itself.  It is difficult for iwi, drystock farmers and forest companies to take the government’s position on more trees seriously when the government ignores the opportunity of its own agencies and landholding to show how it can be done, at least in the initial stages,” Peter Clark says.
“Some local government land would be suitable as well, and I’ve noticed Local Government Leaders have just called for what they term ‘an urgent need for responsive leadership and a holistic approach to climate change.’”
Peter Clark believes there needs to be more effort to attract new recruits into the industry and getting them trained.
“We are as much to blame as government in neglecting this area.  We have just left it to individual companies to organise training and so we are addressing that ourselves now at a more collaborative level.  If we don’t get new and trained workers we will find our industry seriously short of the workforce we need in future.”
“For farmers contemplating planting trees we consider the government should make it easier for these farmers to receive the right advice on whether to plant trees in the first place, where to plant them and how to look after them.  Our experience is that too many farmers make an investment in trees, which is a land use commitment for nearly three decades, and then ruin it, by, for instance, planting trees with inferior genetics or where they can’t construct a road access to get the logs out.”
“Next, there are different sets of rules, at both national and local government level, such as the Waikato in particular, on what different land uses and discharges are acceptable.  It’s not just taxing greenhouse gas discharges through ETS, that is important, but having the same rules for everyone when they discharge into water, be the land use forestry, dairy farming or horticulture.”
“In a similar vein, and directly applicable to the ETS, the government needs to acknowledge that all the carbon in a tree is not immediately lost when a tree is harvested.  So that means the carbon liability at harvesting can be deferred to account for some carbon stored in furniture and buildings for decades to come.”
Peter Clark also says if forests are to expand then the infrastructure has to be planned and enabled at the same time.  
“The infrastructure in some regions, such as East Coast, is struggling to cope with the present volume of logs being transported.  If the total forest estate is to be nearly doubled in the next few years, then we need government led planning and potentially legislative change for constructing or facilitating road, rail, and port infrastructure.”
“If we see significant development in most of these areas, then I’m convinced it will send signals to timber processors they can be confident in investing in efficiencies and modernising to utilise an increased timber resource and meet the demand for processed timber products for domestic and export consumption.  There doesn’t need to be an export tax or export licences to achieve this.”
Peter Clark is critical of the delays in even the reform of the ETS, let alone these other, what he calls, critical developments. 
“We have to wait until next year before the current ETS review reports back to the Minister and for the Productivity Commission enquiry into a Low Emissions Economy. In the meantime, no extra trees are being planted.  The age of a tree is critical in the sums to work out whether New Zealand will reach the 2030 target.  A 12-year-old radiata pine, for instance, locks up six times the amount of carbon a six-year-old pine will.  While we appreciate the need to have robust reviews, some early signals on the direction of travel could encourage planting in 2018 or 2019 rather than delaying that decision until 2020 or beyond.”
For further information contact;
Peter Clark
‘ph 021 726 197

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