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Farm Forestry Supports PCE Approach To Changing Land Uses

The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA) says the new report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) raises important land use change issues that farm foresters have been active in for decades.

The report, Going with the Grain: Changing land uses to fit a changing landscape, was released this week, acknowledging longstanding land use complexities in New Zealand and the need to shift to a more nuanced approach in the face of climate change.

NZFFA Council Chairman Graham West says many of NZFFA’s 24 regional branches already have a high level of engagement with the rural community on land use management issues, including collaboration with local catchment groups.

“Farm foresters are seeking a more holistic solution to land use,” Graham says. “We provide the practical and technical advice on where plantations fit in the property and wider landscape, what species provides most benefit, and what the economic limitations may be.”

While greater effort can come from the roles of government and regional councils, farm forestry says it is the direct facilitation of on-farm operations that are vital.

NZFFA President Neil Cullen says integration of small-scale forestry into hill country farming will be a key factor in ensuring its survival.

“Land use change is not a priority when farmers are in survival mode,” Neil says. “Practical assistance with on farm facilitation is often needed to get things done like tree planting, that appears to be nonessential to a busy farm routine.”

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Farm foresters would have liked to have seen more of how they can build their knowledge of what is meant by “resilience” in the landscape, and how that translates into actionable change or decisions on-farm.

“Little is known of the mechanical limits of landscapes when disasters occur,” Graham says. “If land use change is needed, do we have the empirical evidence that suggested alternatives will stand the stressors of the new environment?

“Not all land use metrics are biological. Soil physics, root mechanics, overland water flows, wind dynamics all need to be better understood before we can design a resilient land use category.

“The existing expected limits for these risk variables are also changing each year as climate change accelerates.

“Farm foresters need the support from Government and the Levy to adapt and grow more resilient woodlots that withstand those variables.”

A collaborative, integrated approach to planning tools, spatial data, environmental and economic models will be important, Neil says.

“Funding the collaboration between property owners, catchment groups, regional councils, science providers, and rural professionals, will improve knowledge sharing and drive better research.

“Meeting and working collectively to discuss and address these issues has, and will continue to be the most constructive approach for finding a way forward.”

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