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Govt accused of sending mixed signals on forestry

New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF)
Te Pūtahi Ngāherehere o Aotearoa Inc.

September 8, 2006

Government accused of sending mixed signals on forestry

The Government has been sending mixed signals on forestry, says New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) President Ket Bradshaw, and it needs to make sure there is consistency of advice and public pronouncements.

Ms Bradshaw drew attention to the recent announcement of the Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative being a step in the right direction, and one which recognised the sequestration and other environmental benefits of forestry.

“So we are very disappointed to see this followed by a Ministry for the Environment media release which implicates forestry as being a source of nutrient run-off degrading our rivers and lakes, when this is patently not the case”.

Ms Bradshaw noted that the case for forestry having a beneficial effect on water quality was well established, referring to long-term studies in Otago and the Hawkes Bay, as well as more recent research around the East Coast Forestry Scheme, Horizons Regional Council’s plans for large scale afforestation to control erosion and flooding in the Manawatu, and Environment Waikato’s reports relating to the Lake Taupo catchment.

“All this research clearly demonstrates the benefits of forestry on water quality,” says Ms Bradshaw, “not only reduced sediment yields, but also lower nitrogen and phosphorous emissions, lower levels of organisms such as faecal coliform and enterococci, and lower peak water flows in storm events.”

As such, the recent PFSI announcement is very welcome, as it should encourage additional new planting, which has been in decline for a number of years.

“What we need to ensure, is that the public is aware of the wide environmental benefits of forestry, not just for carbon sequestration and water quality, but also protection of biodiversity,” says Ms Bradshaw. “However, we need to fix the system around land conversion, and to ensure that the right incentives are in place to encourage the establishment of forests.”

As an example, while the Environment Waikato Regional Plan Variation identifies forestry as the lowest contributor to the nitrification of Lake Taupo, the Council’s proposed actions effectively penalise forest land owners and compensate current high contributors to nitrification if they change land uses, “an absurd proposition,” observes Ms Bradshaw.

The Institute has written to Government requesting that their agencies be fully informed before making public statements around the environmental aspects of forestry.


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