Carbon bill for Kaingaroa Forest owners?

Wednesday 9 Nov 2016

The Maori owners of land under the Southern Hemisphere’s largest plantation forest face a potential carbon liability of nearly NZ$2.5 billion – yet have received credits for just a fraction of the carbon stored in the trees.

The “Treelords deal" iwi say they should be given more carbon credits, and want the rules limiting the use of their lands relaxed. The 2008 settlement of historic Treaty of Waitangi claims, known as the Treelords deal, saw 176,000 hectares of land returned to eight central North Island iwi – Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Manawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Whare, Raukawa, Te Pumautanga o Te Arawa and Ngati Rangitihi.

Ninety-four per cent (166,000ha) of the land is covered by the Kaingaroa Forest, the largest plantation forest in the Southern Hemisphere. Under current ETS rules, the owners of forests planted since 1989 can opt into the scheme and apply for an annual allocation of credits for the carbon stored in their trees. They must surrender credits if the trees are harvested.

But because Kaingaroa Forest was planted before 1990, it is automatically in the scheme and is not eligible for an annual allocation of credits. Instead, the Government gave the owners of pre-1990 forests what it called partial compensation, in the form of a one-off allocation of credits.

But while the owners of other pre-1990 forests received either 39 or 60 credits per hectare (depending on how long they had owned the forest), iwi were given just 18 credits per hectare for forest land received in Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

While Kaingaroa forest itself is owned by the Kaingaroa Timberlands consortium (in which six of the central North Island (CNI) iwi have a combined stake of 2.5 per cent), the point of obligation sits with the landowners. That means that if the forest is harvested or destroyed and not replanted, the iwi must surrender credits to cover the lost carbon.

In a submission on the current review of the ETS, CNI Iwi Land Management Ltd says the situation is patently unfair, because the credits it was given cover just a fraction of the carbon liability.

Papers supporting the submission show that at a carbon price of $20 a tonne (spot NZUs are currently around $19 and are expected to reach $20 by the end of the year), the CNI iwi would incur a carbon liability of $2.458 billion if all their land is taken out of forestry.

Source: Carbon News

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