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East Coast Councils' anti-forestry drive 'environmentally and economically destructive'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Foresters are calling a proposed anti-forestry coalition of local bodies a prejudiced step backwards in time and destructive for their communities both environmentally and economically.

The mayors of Tararua and Wairoa have written to fellow mayors throughout New Zealand wanting money to fund a report designed to show that forestry is negative and ought to be restricted.

The President of the Forest Owners Association, Phil Taylor, says it is contradictory for the Wairoa District to declare climate change to be a key issue in its Long-Term Plan in January, and a few months later leads a national charge to put every obstacle in the way of achieving carbon sequestration through forestry.

"Unfortunately, some council leaders are also off-beam with their understanding of the economics of forestry as well," Phil Taylor says.

"The recent MPI commissioned PwC Report quite clearly found forestry was much higher in earning power and employment than using the hill country land for continuing to farm livestock."

Farm Forestry Association President, Graham West, says the terms of reference the Wairoa and Tararua mayors have set out for their report, are fixated on forestry and don’t look at the diverse and long-term interests of their constituency.

"The mayors demand a long-term plan for forestry. But they haven’t done the same for farming."

"East Coast councils should be carefully looking at the impact of climate change in an already dry region and what viable land use options there are, including a mix of forestry."

"Banning tree planting is not going to increase wool prices, nor ward off the threat of synthetic meat. New local processing industries, for both food and fibre need to be developed, which will support farming communities in the longer term," Graham West says.

"Tree farming will supply the raw material for the rapidly emerging bioeconomy, and that in turn may need new tree species instead of radiata pine."

"The mayors could be encouraging a report which is broader and objective. A report like this could help councils build a resilient economy for their communities."

Graham West says the Climate Change Commission has budgeted an extra 380,000 hectares of new forest planting over the next 15 years.

"Hopefully, most of this planting will be integrated into farming systems, including on Wairoa and Tararua farms. Farmers should not have to fight their councils for the opportunity to earn a more diverse and reliable cash flow than they do now."

Phil Taylor says some councils, such as Hawkes Bay Regional Council, are taking advantage of opportunities for forestry.

"Some councils see forestry as a good income earning investment for future generations, and doing their bit for the environment at the same time."

"In this case, Hawkes Bay is grappling to meet new government water quality standards, while at the same time one of their districts is trying to make the job to comply harder."

Phil Taylor says regional economies stand the most to benefit from New Zealand’s move away from fossil fuels to wood-based bioenergy.

"This imminent transformation to satisfy overseas consumers of our primary products, has already been recognised by a significant part of the agriculture sector who have not been slow to embrace forestry.

Phil Taylor says in light of these factors, he is strongly urging councils who have received the two mayors’ letter to have a good think about the skewed terms of reference.

"It would be a good time for local government to do an objective analysis of land use choice and opportunities. Our industry would be delighted to have input into this, as I am sure would Federated Farmers and other farm organisations."

"What none of us need is a call to legislate against farmer choices based on what appears to be a set of prejudices to keep farms free of any trees."

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