New forest frustration for farmer

Wednesday 7 Mar 2018

A man who wants to plant 25ha of forest on steep Waitotara hills is frustrated he can't be told whether the carbon it stores will earn him carbon credits.

He says Government's tree planting aim will fail unless registering for the emissions trading scheme (ETS) is easier. He intends to make an issue of it.

"If I wasn't such a determined person I would simply say 'I will just let it go'."

Neil Walker is a Taranaki Regional Council councillor with a passion to find environmentally sound and profitable uses for Taranaki hill country. He already has 110ha of forest at Nukuhau near Waverley registered with the ETS.

He wants to plant more on a 317ha block he owns in the Waitotara Valley.

He thought it would be easy. He ordered 25,000 eucalypts to plant this winter and paid a deposit. He sprayed off gorse and put in vehicle tracks.

To be part of the ETS the land has to be "new" forest - not forested in 1990. A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff member has inspected his 25ha, but can't officially say it's eligible for carbon credits until it is planted.

Mr Walker isn't satisfied. There's a process through the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that he can use to force an early decision - but it's expensive and lengthy and he doesn't want to do it.

"It's a big exercise to crack a nut."

He's hired a mapping expert, who has photographic evidence the land was cleared before 1990, and has been reverting and had gorse cleared since.

Mr Walker's Nukuhau forest has earned him more than $30,000 in carbon credits last year. He believes it could eventually earn more than his 250-cow dairy farm at Manutahi.

He wants eroding Taranaki hill country planted for carbon storage, and he'd like Forestry Minister Shane Jones to achieve the aim of planting a billion trees in the next 10 years.

But under the Climate Change Response Act MPI cannot assess a forest for registration in the ETS until it is planted, a spokesperson said.

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Source: NZHerald

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