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Immediate Kyoto policies impractical for forestry

23 June 2005
Immediate Kyoto policies impractical for forestry

Forest industry concern about the government's climate change policies was reflected in a formal submission to parliament today. Jaquetta (Ket) Bradshaw, President of the NZ Institute of Forestry, told a select committee hearing that the provisions of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill were impractical and did not comply with good forestry management practice.

"The treatment of forestry should be reviewed to remove distortions and uncertainties that are influencing the decisions of forest owners. "Current policies are disadvantaging forest owners relative to other land uses and competing products. They are among the reasons for the increased rate of conversion of forest to farmland, and for the steep decline in new forest plantings."

The institute's submission had the support of the NZ Forest Owners Association, the NZ Farm Forestry Association, Tane's Tree Trust and the Commonwealth Forestry Association. "This is one of the few occasions when the entire forest owning community is united in its concerns over a forestry proposal. We do however support the development and adoption of a climate change strategy appropriate to New Zealand in which forestry plays a significant part," Ket Bradshaw says.

The institute has not previously opposed the retention of forest sink credits by the Crown, but this was on the assumption that the credits would be returned to the sector in some manner, and that they would not be used to shield forestry's competitors. "Unfortunately, the industry has not been compensated for the loss of credits, and these are being used to shelter competing industries.

If forestry is to play its part in combating global warming, and in meeting the country's Kyoto obligations, these anomalies must be addressed." Ms Bradshaw says the biggest single forestry benefit for the Kyoto process will come from expanding the total New Zealand forest resource. "This will be achieved by maximising the area of new forest and from restocking existing forest after harvest, so long as efficient land use decisions are also involved," she says. "The most efficient way to achieve this is to ensure that the legislative, regulatory and economic environments are conducive to forestry and that forestry receives treatments that are equitable with other land uses."

The institute also believes the government's permanent forest sink proposal will not be attractive to many land or forest owners.

"The cost, risks and liabilities appear to outweigh any guaranteed returns from the initiative. Included in our concerns about liabilities are the 35-year no harvest condition and the in perpetuity requirement, both of which are counter to good forest management practice and wise land use.

"Some of the justifications for permanent forest sinks are described as biodiversity enhancement, soil and water conservation and improved flood protection. These are worthy objectives, which would be better addressed independently of the Kyoto process. This would result in a greater area of forest and, therefore, greater carbon sequestration."


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