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Huge era of opportunities for foresters

New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF)
Te Pûtahi Ngâherehere o Aotearoa Inc.

April 21, 2006

Huge era of opportunities for foresters about to begin - Fitzsimons

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said New Zealand is entering into an era of huge opportunities for foresters in spite of the doldrums the industry is in.

Opening the New Zealand Institute of Forestry Conference at Te Papa in Wellington today, she said that although log prices were currently low, forestry had an opportunity to gain a better position in future in terms of carbon storage payments, climate change mitigation and biofuels.

“I opened the Biofuels Conference, also being held in Wellington today, and it sees forests as the new energy source with work on collecting forest arisings, coppicing hardwoods for ethanol and using wood chips for producer gas in industrial work and transport.”

Some companies are already moving towards harnessing the energy of wood by converting more costly gas fired equipment with less-expensive wood-burning options.

She said there was also the opportunity to grow diverse forests with higher landscape and biodiversity values while still getting a good return. However, there was a need to come to grips with the current climate change policy vacuum.

“The decision-makers need to place a price on carbon in some way. They’ve abandoned the carbon charge and full emissions trading can’t happen in time for the 2012 deadline set internationally.

“Our policy “Turn down the Heat” looks at what Government can do now. It’s pragmatic and proposes offsets for emissions which can’t easily be reduced ie methane and air travel. Approved offset projects (not just forests) hold a permanent obligation to maintain storage and this is the direction we need to be heading.”

She opened her speech by commenting on her recent visit to Maungatautari, a volcanic mass in Waikato which has 3000 hectares of original tawa forest.

“It was perhaps never valued highly enough to log or it was considered too steep to do so. Either way the forest was high quality with little bird life. The community now values it so highly as a potential habitat that they’ve fenced it.

“Sadly the view from the top is one of haze and smoke from burning forests for dairy conversions. While the log value may be down and dairy values up we need to ask – is this good economics?”

Ms Fitzsimons said there were significant environmental consequences from dairy conversions. There’s nitrogen and coliforms to the waters, especially in Taupo, which have no price to the farmer, but the clean-up costs for Lake Taupo are already established at $80m to the community.

“Then there’s the loss of carbon storage which has no value to the forester but will cost the taxpayer in 2012. There’s the increase in methane emissions with no cost to the farmer but again a cost to the taxpayer in 2012. Can we really say this is an economic decision to convert forests for dairying?”

ENDS


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