Clampdown on forestry speculators
Wednesday 30 Oct 2019The Government is taking steps to ensure its goal of planting 1 billion trees over 10 years doesn't come at the cost of valuable farmland - Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor addressed concerns that overseas investors are buying large tracts of farmland to convert to forestry on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning.
"In some areas, there are genuine concerns about this where there have been a number of farms bought up," he said. "We are looking into it. I've had discussions with Forestry Minister Shane Jones, and we'll have to tweak things. We'll look to intervene where we've got large-scale speculation by just a bunch of land traders."
Changes to the Overseas Investment Act in 2018 streamlined purchases of land by overseas investors if it was used for forestry. This led to an increase in speculators buying land to convert to forest, betting on an increase in the price of carbon. As at April this year, North Island forestry land rose from a median price of $6656 per hectare to over $13,000.
Information from the Overseas Investment Office shows that until the end of August 2019, there have been 19 approvals for sales under the new 'special forestry test'. Eight of those were farm conversions, amounting to 14,229 ha of farmland converted to forest.
However Julie Collins, deputy director-general of Te Uru Rakau, says the special forestry test has many specific caveats designed to protect the land.
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