Federated Farmers believes new requirements announced today for overseas investors buying New Zealand farmland for forestry are encouraging but are only step one of a suite of changes required.
“For years Feds and other organisations have been calling for a reversal of rules that exempt overseas buyers intending to convert our farmland into forestry from the ‘proof of benefit to New Zealand’ requirements that apply when buyers intend continuing farm production land use,” Federated Farmers Meat & Wool Chairperson William Beetham says.
“That chorus has grown ever louder as tens of thousands of hectares of productive farmland are blanketed in pine trees, in large part because of the chase for carbon credit revenue.
“We’re glad the government is listening and taking action. But more must be done,” William says.
Federated Farmers supports a ‘right tree, right place’ philosophy and agrees there is an important role for production forestry, and for farmers to have the option to choose to integrate more sequestration into their farms by planting out land that they see as being marginal to their farming systems.
Increasing the integration of vegetation into farms can bring biodiversity, animal welfare and environmental benefits, including sequestering carbon to fight climate change.
“What we oppose is interventionist government policies – and in particular ETS settings – that lead to a skewed, unfair playing field. Employment and the viability of rural communities are being destroyed as good production farmland is blanketed in pines in a chase for short-term profit,” William says.
“It’s not even sound policy in the long-term on the climate change front because such offsetting means polluting industries have less incentive to develop more emissions-friendly ways of doing business.”
The Federated Farmers National Council will on Wednesday March 2 be debating what other measures are needed to ensure that the government’s stated support for ‘right tree, right place’ is backed up by the right policy framework.
“As well as getting the ETS settings right, there are options for even-handed treatment in terms of resource consent conditions between production forests and ‘carbon-only’ forests, and the treatment of forestry in terms of the rates income requirements of local councils,” William says.