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Report heralds massive land conversion to forestry

4 September 2018

Productivity Commission Report heralds massive land conversion to forestry

Forest owners say the Productivity Commission’s call for up to 2.8 million hectares of land to be turned into forests as a carbon sink would require implementing the most ambitious land-use change project a New Zealand government has ever set itself.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Weir says the scope of afforestation proposed to get New Zealand to carbon neutrality by 2050 would need a new-planting rate, of 100,000 hectares a year, which has been achieved only once in New Zealand in recent times – in 1994.

“The government would then have to maintain this planting rate for three decades to achieve the goal.”

Peter Weir says it’s vital that the government works closely with all landowning groups to ensure an efficient and equitable transition to an envisaged ‘decarbonised economy’.

“A carbon price, with a transparent and realistic system of price setting, needs to be high enough to encourage change from current activities and land use, to forestry. The Productivity Commission escalated price projections are realistic in that respect.”

Farm Foresters Association President Neil Cullen believes the only sufficient land area to achieve the Commission’s goal is to be found on farms.

“Farmers will need to have access to the best advice on how to go about planting woodlots, and so avoid the mistakes too prevalent in the past, such as poor planning for road access at harvest time.”

“That’s not just a government job, but I believe farm organisations have a central role in helping the transformation of farm properties into an integrated land use operation with a substantial investment in forestry.”

Peter Weir says that he has a concern that there might be two ‘pools’ of methane accounting arising from the report.

“It is likely to lead to a grand-parented tradeable emission right for dairy farmers which is denied to sheep and beef farmers.”

Neil Cullen says widespread planting for carbon fixing needs to focus on the species of trees which are best at doing that in the required time scale.

“In the distant future our new indigenous forests will be locking up a lot of carbon. But if you are to achieve efficient carbon capture in the relatively short term, that’s to 2050, there is no doubt that exotic trees, such as conifers and eucalypts, are the best candidates for the job.”

Peter Weir says the vast afforestation envisaged by the Productivity Commission will need to incorporate whole catchments to reach the target.

“For a scheme of such as scale, we cannot afford to get either the environmental or the economic side wrong.”

ends

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