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Forest owners feel deep sense of injustice

18 December 2006

Forest owners feel deep sense of injustice

The Forest Owners Association says its members are very disappointed by the proposed land use climate change policies announced today by ministers Jim Anderton and David Parker.

“There is anger, and a deep sense of injustice, among many of those with forests planted both before and after 1990, the starting date for Kyoto accounting,” says NZFOA executive director David Rhodes.

“The possibility that owners of forests planted before the Kyoto Protocol even came into existence will be taxed up to $13,000/ha if they change land use is hard to believe. These people have no ability to gain anything from the carbon absorbed by their forests, yet they are still going to be penalised if they harvest.

“Under such a regime, forestland will be instantly devalued relative to other land. Maori landowners in particular will be disadvantaged given pending treaty settlement claims.”

To remain internationally competitive, the country’s primary sector needs to be flexible – to be able to change land use in response to market signals, he says.

“The answer to reducing deforestation is not taxing landowners into submission, but to make it more attractive for them to remain in forestry.

“This could be achieved by measures to encourage replanting, and by having agriculture take on more responsibility for its emissions. The government is leaving farming completely shielded for the first Kyoto commitment period, even though it is the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.”

Mr Rhodes says the government has signalled that beyond 2012 greenhouse gas emissions from all sources will have to be taken into account and that there will be carbon-pricing across the economy.

“The forest industry supports this, but this does not excuse weak action in the meantime.”

The paper also contains suggestions for encouraging new forestry planting including the devolution of credits and liabilities from 2007. Mr Rhodes says this is positive, but “what about those who have already done the right thing by the country?,” he asks.

“The carbon stored in Kyoto forests planted from 1990 is worth more than a billion dollars to New Zealand. This benefit is going to be enjoyed by a number of sectors who are greenhouse gas emitters such as transport and agriculture but it seems none will be available for those who actually produced the credits.

“The forest industry do not see this as consistent with the partnership approach heralded in the consultation document.”

The goal of carbon neutrality can be realised, but it requires a different approach, Mr Rhodes says.

“There are many unanswered questions raised by the discussion paper, and we will be consulting with our members and other affected stakeholders who share our concerns, before responding to the government. We must find a better outcome for forestry and New Zealand and we will be working hard to ensure this happens.”


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