Beef+Lamb forestry report confuses

Wednesday 11 Aug 2021

The Forest Owners Association (FOA) says the Beef+Lamb commissioned survey on forest planting rates is nowhere near robust nor detailed enough to draw a conclusion that the government should impose controls over the rate of forest planting.

FOA President Phil Taylor says the Beef+Lamb report is a worthy contribution to the land use debate, but it raises more questions than it answers.

"Government data is contradicting the report. Official figures clearly point to a decline in the area of the exotic plantation forest estate, and so new planting is not keeping pace with the land area going out of forestry. The plantation forest estate has shrunk by 162,000 hectares in the past 18 years, mostly to dairy farms. There has always been changing land use."

"Our concern on current figures, would be that the Climate Change Commission’s reliance on an expansion of the exotic forest area by another 380,000 hectares by 2035, to meet the 2050 greenhouse gas target, is going to fall well short. On top of that, the Climate Change Commission anticipates there will need to be more use made of wood in construction, and its extensive utilisation in biofuels to replace fossil fuel."

"That means any government restrictions on afforestation will risk New Zealand not meeting its carbon targets. By the time that shortfall becomes clear it will be too late to fix it."

The National Exotic Forest Description, which is published by the Ministry for Primary Industries, recorded a reduction in the net stocked area in the year to April 2020 of 31,347 hectares, after allowing for 19,000 hectares of new afforestation.

The President of the Farm Forestry Association (FFA), Graham West, says farmers should be free to continue to make economic decisions on whether they want to use their own land to plant trees and on what land classes."

A recent Ministry for the Environment study has shown that there is currently 313,000 hectares of plantation forests on farmland.

"And that makes sense for farmers. The recent PwC report was clear that forestry stacked up very well as a land use and so forestry benefits the economies of local communities. There is between 7.5 and 10.4 million hectares of hill country farm land, and if a conversion of a mere 380,000 hectares is a threat, then the meat and wool industries has more serious issues to deal with than just a few profitable trees to worry about," Graham West says.

Graham West says the report is actually positive about the integrated use of trees on farms and that land sales to forestry are giving better capital gain, which allows movement up the farming ladder or retirement.

BakerAg, the report’s author states; ‘If farmers already have experience with trees and forestry, or are confident of the support available in what may not be core business to date, then indicators are this will provide further confidence to consider investing in forestry as part of the land-use mix."

Phil Taylor says Beef+Lamb automatically assume that farming will always be a better and more productive land use than forestry, "On the tougher hill country, Beef+Lamb are now demanding that even if livestock can barely survive on that land, then tree planting should still be restricted."


Source: FFA & FOA

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