Federated Farmers has been checking the calendar – six months on from last year’s election and the government has broken an election promise to protect productive farmland.
Labour pledged if re-elected it would take less than six months to protect productive farmland from the rampant spread of large-scale exotic tree planting across the country.
“We were told they would revise the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to require forestry blocks intended to be larger than 50 hectares on elite soils, that means Land Use Capability Classes 1-5, to have to get a resource consent,” Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says.
“We’ve been reading the papers, but this hasn’t happened yet. In fact, there are no signs at all that they are seriously moving forward on this.”
At the time it was made, the election promise was cheered by Feds’ members.
“It was a sign the government finally acknowledged there was an issue with large-scale exotic tree planting, and the damage the free-for-all to plant pines was doing to rural communities,” Andrew says.
The focus on LUC classed land 1-5 was far from ideal with a lot of sheep and beef farms classed LUC 6 and higher falling to forestry.
“But it was at least an opportunity to consider how we regulate to get the right trees planted in the right places, for the right reasons.”
The government is also yet to initiate a long-expected review of the special forestry test for overseas investment.
Feds says the loose requirements of the special forestry test encourage overseas investors to purchase productive farms for wholesale conversion to forestry rather than keep those farms in agricultural production.
“Blanket forestry for carbon farming shuts down rural communities. Employment to plant the trees and that’s the end of it. No pruning, and no timber ever again from the land,” Andrew says.
“Short term thinking by government is creating permanent damage to rural communities and the national economy.
“What farmers need to see from the government is a widespread review of the full range of policies that are leading to the loss of productive farms, export income, employment and the undermining of rural communities.
“The Minister has said he’ll keep moving on this. We’d like to see him and his colleagues move a little faster.”