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Govt Playing Games With Forest Owners

Thursday 9 February 2006

Govt Playing Games With Forest Owners As Plantings Plunge

Tension is rising among foresters at a Government which seems to prefer talk to action over New Zealand’s deforestation crisis, the Kyoto Forestry Association (KFA) said today.

KFA was commenting on news that plantings of new forest last year hit their lowest level since 1960 – a mere 6,000 hectares in the winter of 2005 compared with nearly 11,000 hectares in 2004 and around 70,000 hectares annually during the peak in the 1990s – and that New Zealand’s total forest cover fell by around 1,000 hectares.

“We have said again and again over a period of years that this was where Government policy was taking us,” KFA spokesman Roger Dickie said today. “The Government has stolen Kyoto carbon credits from their rightful owners, the New Zealanders who have risked their capital to plant trees since 1990.

This has sent a signal to existing and potential forestry investors that their contribution to the economy and the environment is not valued by the Government, and that their property is not safe from confiscation.

Is it any wonder no one is prepared to risk another cent to plant trees, which would create jobs and tackle climate change? Further along the value chain, who on earth would spend the necessary tens of millions of dollars to invest in new wood-processing operations knowing there will be no secure long-term supply of wood in New Zealand? As a result, jobs are being lost right now.”

Mr Dickie said there had been hopes that Prime Minister Helen Clark’s sacking of Pete Hodgson as climate change minister and appointment of Jim Anderton and David Parker to the forestry and climate change portfolios respectively heralded a new seriousness by the Government to tackle the deforestation crisis.

“Unfortunately, it is starting to look as if Mr Anderton is resolved only to talk. Forestry industry representatives have often felt we have had to beg to even be consulted by his officials let alone have serious engagement with the Minister himself,” Mr Dickie said.

“Last year, for example, the industry, in good faith, sat down with Mr Anderton’s officials week after week to work on a new path forward for forestry policy that would actually lead to more trees being planted, with property rights respected. That work seems not to have been taken sufficiently seriously by Mr Anderton, with a cursory reference to it in a Christmas Eve press statement, but with the industry’s work remaining buried in the bureaucracy and still secret from the media.

“What’s more, despite a gesture of goodwill by foresters in resuming limited access to our properties by government officials, we have heard nothing but vague promises of further talk at some point in the future.

“Mr Anderton may think promises of further ‘engagement’ are a substitute for policy change but foresters, those we employ and those concerned about climate change expect real action, urgently.

“We should not need to beg for the Government and Minister to talk with us and take the deforestation crisis seriously. It is the Government’s responsibility to talk with us and act upon the information and perspectives we bring, especially given the current crisis.

“Hopefully this latest data from MAF will be a wake up call to the Government, to the industry and to the public about the deforestation crisis.”


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