A newsletter from 50 Shades of Green points out that Overseas Investment Office rules favour forestry over farming:
The unfair advantage.
Did you know, the threshold for farm sales approval is different for farms selling to farmers than it is for farms selling to forestry investors?Forestry doesn’t have to meet the jobs criteria. Double whammy again, taking out valuable land and jobs at the same time, impacting local communities and displacing jobs. Sheep + Beef estimate 7 jobs are displaced for 1 forestry job.
We don’t think the general public is aware of the indications of 5 million hectares of pine trees, what that looks like in 40, 50 years time, and much of it, with sink initiatives, not likely to be harvested
It is ironic that Shane Jones the self-proclaimed savior of the regions who has the $3 billion provincial slush fund to throw around to create jobs, is also the Minister promoting the billion trees policy which will kill them.
The Paris Accord states that climate change policy should not conflict with food production but Alan Emerson writes that trees are being planted at the expense of food:
Every now and then we hear some idiot describing agriculture as being a sunset industry despite the fact we contribute 79.3% of the country’s wealth.
What we should be discussing is New Zealand becoming a sunset economy because it will be if the Government’s ad hoc response to climate change continues along the line it’s going.
For the record, I accept the climate is changing, human activity has done it and we need to do something to fix it.
What I don’t accept is all the Wellington centric crazy fixes that are, in the main, anti-farmer and without the benefit of solid science and economic calculations grounded in reality.
NZ won’t survive without agriculture.
It is still agriculture which earns most of our export income.
Its carbon footprint per kilogram of product is one of the lowest in the world and we’re producing a lot more with less input than we’ve ever done.
If you take nutrient density into account New Zealand farm produce stacks up even better.
In addition, as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton said, pines are fine for mitigating methane emissions but not for carbon dioxide.
The people who criticize anyone who won’t accept the science on climate change won’t accept this science, nor will they accept the science on gene-editing that could help us reduce methane emissions.
So, why are we planting a billion trees?
Another question is where are we planting them? In Wairarapa we’ve recently lost seven good farms to forestry and that is a major issue.
At Pongaroa they’ve lost between 6000 and 8000 hectares to forestry.
It was interesting to read in last week’s Farmers Weekly Rabobank believes farm forestry will become more appealing. Sustainability analyst Blake Holgate said Government incentives make forestry a more appealing land use option at the cost of food production.
He also said forestry provides opportunity to generate income from area that has been unproductive.
I agree with both statements but was somewhat amazed by comments from Forest Owners Association president Peter Weir who claimed millions of hectares of land for forestry isn’t available. He suggested very little land is being bought for forestry, which I disagree with.
Simply put, my position is there is a lot of marginal land that could go into trees and provide extra income for farmers. That’s good.
Good, productive land and entire farms going into forestry at the expense of food production is bad.
The discussion takes me back to the Muldoon government in the 1970s with its Land Development Encouragement Loans.
Money was available to farmers to clear native bush with the aim of improving NZ Inc’s performance.
So 940,000 hectares were cleared and a massive amount of biodiversity was lost but much of it has since reverted and some has been planted in pines.
Some areas should never have been cleared in the first place and it makes both environmental and financial sense to replant them in trees.
But planting trees on land best suited to producing food will come at a high economic and social cost for no real environmental gain.
Simply, the subsidy didn’t work.
Now we have a subsidy to plant trees, millions of them.
Subsidies are an evil from the past and distort the market. They have no future in a modern economy.
While I applaud Regional Development Minister Shane Jones’ aim of revitalising the regions I believe his forestry initiative will achieve exactly the opposite.
He needs to change advisers.
Let’s look at the facts.
According to the NZ Forestry Bulletin Jones’ billion trees mean 50,000 hectares a year is taken out of production.
To achieve the Productivity Commission’s goals, however, would require 100,000 hectares to be taken out of production each and every year for three decades – a total of three million hectares.
That’s almost a third of our total farmland and it won’t be marginal but productive, food-producing country.
Wairarapa farmer and ram breeder Derek Daniell has done his sums.
For a start every thousand hectares of sheep and beef farms employs seven people each and every year. The same amount of forestry supports one.
That is six jobs lost for every farm that is converted to forestry.
What will that do to provincial NZ?
One retired meat company director told me the removal of stock for trees on the North Island’s east coast would mean the closure of one meat processing works.
What will that do to the provinces?
An economist suggested the value to the country of a hectare of sheep and beef is about $55,000.
At Pongaroa, taking the lowest figure of land out of production, that would mean a loss to their economy of $330m.
What will that loss achieve for the provinces?
Then we have trees harvested every 25-30 years. That’s a long time to wait for a pay cheque.
The money in the interim will be from carbon farming but according Upton that isn’t sustainable.
Further, what is to stop some political party changing the ETS, as has happened.
Relying on political whim for your pay cheque doesn’t spin my wheels.
When it comes to pollution and carbon footprints Daniell points to the cities and not the provinces
The problem is that even with the best of intentions from Jones that instead of forestry boosting the provincial economy it will destroy it.
The madness needs to stop.
You can read more from 50 Shades of Green and subscribe to their newsletter here.