by Hamish Barwick
Rather than blanket the countryside with pine forests to offset carbon emissions, Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb NZ are calling for integrated forestry plantings on sheep and beef farms.
Including forestry areas on sheep and beef farms would provide a range of benefits, such as shelter for livestock, improving biodiversity outcomes and improving water quality outcomes.
‘Farmers are a major stakeholder in the New Zealand forestry sector. Many farmers take great care to integrate vegetation into their farming systems, often at a great time and financial commitment,’ said Feds and Beef + Lamb NZ in a joint submission to the MPI and MfE National direction for plantation and exotic carbon afforestation discussion paper.
However, concerns were raised in the submission by Feds and Beef + Lamb NZ about the loss of productive farmland, lower farm spending, and reduced jobs that occur when productive sheep and beef farms are converted to pine plantations. Much of this loss in farmland to forestry has been driven by high prices for carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which have made ‘permanent’ carbon forestry much more financially attractive than either sheep and beef farming or harvest forestry.
To counter this continued afforestation, both organisations strongly support the establishment of a moratorium for the inclusion of exotic species such as pine trees in the ‘Permanent Forest’ category of the ETS, in place for at least two years (up to 1 Jan 2025).
This would give the government time to conduct work with the forestry and agricultural industries, carbon foresters, iwi, and affected community groups to modify the NZ ETS, along with other policy tools and mechanisms, to better address the impacts of large-scale afforestation.
Both organisations strongly encourage a full review of New Zealand’s ETS focusing on how the ETS might better drive afforestation (native and exotic) that is integrated within existing landscapes/land uses and identify how risks associated with land use change are managed, and co-benefits are best realised.
They also agreed with the paper’s proposals to
- Extend the scope of the RMA framework to include exotic carbon forests and to improve wildfire management.
- Encourage the government to consider a wide variety of policy options and tools to ensure that the effects of carbon forestry are best managed.
- Support urgent action on these proposals and work programmes assessing the role of forestry in the NZ ETS.
- Support amending the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) to include a new forest category – ‘exotic carbon forest’
- Support amending the NES-PF to require Forest Management Plans (FMP) for exotic carbon forests
- Ensure that these changes will manage the environmental effects of new and existing exotic carbon forests
- Support the design and implementation of a new national consenting requirement to manage the social, cultural, and economic impacts of plantation and exotic carbon forestry under Option 2, National Direction for Afforestation.
Submissions to the discussion paper closed on November 18.