Otago group debates forests on farms issues

Wednesday 15 Dec 2021

Is forestry a threat to rural communities or an opportunity too good to refuse? About 70 people attended the panel debate "Plantation forestry — threat or opportunity?" in Dunedin last week to discuss and debate the issue. Independent debate chairman Stephen Woodhead, of Milton, gave each of the four panel members 10 minutes to speak.

Ministry for Primary Industries Te Uru Rakau forest and land use senior adviser Duncan Harrison, of Christchurch, said a Ministry for the Environment report published in October estimates up to 1.37million ha of new forest — a mix of native and exotic — could be planted in New Zealand between 2020 and 2050.

The Government was investigating how permanent exotic forests could be "controlled" within the ministry’s current regulatory limits, Mr Harrison said.

Beef+Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor, of Wellington, said the biggest issue facing his sector was the "unfettered ability" of industrial carbon emitters to offset their emissions by buying farms to grow trees for carbon.

"In 30 years, when we reach carbon zero, what will the landscape, those investments and communities look like?"

Risks of carbon farming included the spread of pests, weeds and disease and the loss of jobs and services in rural communities and export earnings for New Zealand.

About 90% of sheep and beef was exported, he said.

Demand for carbon farming was "escalating" the price of rural land and put farm ownership out of reach of future generations.

However, farmers were in a "sweet spot" at the moment — being paid the best commodity prices in the past 40 years, able to sell their farms for a good price, or plant trees on them for carbon farming.

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Source and photo credit: ODT



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