Labour: Councils for forestry consenting

Wednesday 8 Jul 2020

 
Labour policy would put forestry decisions in council hands - The Labour Party will get tough on forestry conversions if it wins the next election, it says. Announcing the proposal to allow local councils to determine what classes of land can be used for forestry, Labour Party forestry spokesperson Stuart Nash (pictured) said the change would take place in the first six months of the next term of government.

The move has been supported with reservations by Federated Farmers but strongly opposed by the Forest Owners Association.

"Resource consent would be required for plantation or carbon forests on Land Use Capability Classes 1-5 - often known as elite soils - above a threshold of 50 hectares per farm," Nash said.

"While 90 percent of forestry planting for (carbon absorption) happens on less productive soils in classes 6-8, we want to ensure all planting happens away from our most valuable soils, 1-5."

The legislation would revise the National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry. Federated Farmers Meat & Wool chairperson William Beetham praised the policy.

"We're really pleased there is now acknowledgement there's an issue with large-scale exotic plantings - particularly those grown just for carbon credits - swallowing up land used for food and fibre production," he said.

"The result of this trend is loss of export income, employment and the undermining of rural social cohesion."

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said Federated Farmers was actually contradicting a long standing policy of allowing landowners such as farmers to make their own decisions on what to do with their own land. He said its claims about the economics of afforestation were wrong.

"Per hectare, per year, the export returns from forestry are way above the returns from sheep and beef farming," he said.

"Forestry will save many rural communities."

He said there was no need for the law to protect high quality land from forestry - it was already so expensive that foresters would not buy it anyway, and would instead leave it to other uses such as dairy farms.

Federated Farmers' support for the proposal was not wholehearted, Taylor said. Getting resource consent from a council was expensive and cumbersome - and a better way had to be found to solve this problem.

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Source and photo credit: RNZ


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