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Forest Owners say National’s vote on pine forests is ‘a hopeless muddle of contradictions’

Press Release – NZ Forest Owners’ Association
The Forest Owners Association says the National Party vote at its conference in Wellington over the weekend was “a hopeless muddle of emotive contradictions which manage to simultaneously deny ecology, biology, how to effectively combat climate change and economics”.

A remit to make it illegal to plant a pine forest if it is unlikely ever to be harvested, was passed by a delegate vote. The remit was seconded by the unsuccessful candidate for the Wairarapa seat in the recent election, Mike Butterick.

Forest Owners Association President, Phil Taylor says the remit called for commercially viable large-scale native forest carbon sinks.

“The only way this can be deciphered is the National Party wants a National government to subsidise growing large areas of native trees. Viable indigenous tree planting and subsequent ongoing maintenance is very expensive – there is a lot of management required.”

“These trees are also far behind pines, eucalyptus and Douglas-fir, in their rate of carbon dioxide sequestration. If they are planted now, the contribution of native trees to fighting climate change won’t be substantial until next century.”

“The remit also wanted to make it illegal to plant pine forests if they might not be harvested. This is again difficult to understand. It seems to have something to do with displacing food production.”

“But the most logical places for carbon forests are on land so steep and erodible that food production isn’t any more viable than harvesting trees is. Food production is not displaced.”

“The natural evolution of a pine forest, if the landowner chooses to leave it unharvested, is to transform into an indigenous forest. The delegates appeared to be unaware of this.”

Phi Taylor is also critical of other claims about pine forests.

“Fundamentally if the National Party delegates object to inconsequential methane emissions from decaying trees, they should be much more interested in the massive methane emissions from sheep and cattle. Livestock add to harmful greenhouse gas emissions – forests do the opposite.”

“Trees of any forests – indigenous or pine – if left, will eventually all die. Pines don’t have a monopoly on rotting.”

“The claim of pest plants breeding in pine forests is also quite odd. The 50 Shades of Green movement, in which Mr Butterick has been active, is running television advertisements claiming nothing else grows in pine forests. He seems to want it both ways.”

“Again too, forests do not have a monopoly on weeds, such as gorse – or on rabbits and possums. They are the curse of farmland too.”

“The most fundamental point, which surprises me about a National Party resolution, is the fact that average hill country farming doesn’t compete with production forestry over the long term.”

“That was the conclusion reached by BakerAg last year and even more convincingly by Pricewaterhousecooper earlier this year in a report to MPI.”

“While the main target is carbon farming, the National Party conference has in effect just told landowners that they should not be allowed to farm their land and produce what they want on it, be it food, wool, wood or carbon.”

“They are only going to be allowed to use their land for what the National Party tells them to at the time.”

Phil Taylor says on the other hand he is relieved the new Forests Minister, Stuart Nash, appears to be more open-minded about restricting landowner choice about what they do on their own land.

“Stuart Nash hasn’t backed off the pre-election policy of restricting forestry on better land, but at least in our engagement so far with him, he is open minded on how to get the best productivity off our land. He is aware of the feeling about governments telling landowners what to do.”

Remit 3 for National Party Conference

Upper Harbour and Northland

Moved; Shelly Pilkington

Seconded; Mike Butterick

That the National Party seek a solution to make native forest carbon sinks commercially viable on land that is unlikely ever to be harvested and/or make it illegal to plant a pine forest if it is unlikely ever to be harvested. This will prevent a future unintended consequence of the Emissions Trading Scheme – an ancient rotting pine forest that renders food producing land useless, releases harmful methane into the atmosphere and creates a breeding ground for pest plant species

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