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National takes chainsaw to afforestation grants

National takes chainsaw to afforestation grant scheme

Budget documents show that the Government will downscale the Afforestation Grant Scheme by $2m per year over the next three years before eventually ceasing it, says Labour Forestry spokesperson Stuart Nash.

The Afforestation Grant Scheme is a contestable fund designed to encourage the planting of new forests.

Stuart Nash said that the axing of this scheme is foolish for three reasons.

“The first is that the planting of trees is vital to New Zealand meeting its Kyoto commitments. Trees eat carbon, as opposed to, for example, livestock that produce it. The only reason New Zealand doesn’t have any international carbon liabilities is because of the amount of forests planted after 1990.

“Forestry will play a significant role in ensuring that New Zealand plays its part in mitigating the effects of global warming, and to cut a scheme that encourages people to plant forests defies logic.”

Stuart Nash said: “The second reason is that forestry has the potential to be a large employer at a time when unemployment figures are still high due to the difficult economic times. Why would the Government take the chainsaw to a scheme that has the potential to create jobs at a time of economic hardship?”

The third reason axing such a scheme was foolish was because it has a high component of regional focus and initiative.

“Half the funding is available to regional councils to help them meet their sustainable land management objectives. For example, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has proactively marketed the Afforestation Grant Scheme as an opportunity for Hawke’s landowners to establish new forests,” said Stuart Nash.

“The scheme encourages regional economic development and promotes an activity in forestry where everyone wins: the landowner, the region and the country.

“Sadly, given that there are so many winners, the scheme is now going, going, gone.”

ENDS


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