The outgoing President of the Farm Forestry Association, Graham West, says it has been vital for farm foresters to directly address the Ministerial Inquiry into forestry and other land use in Tairāwhiti.
West has told the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association annual conference, now underway in Timaru, that the Inquiry Panel was keen to hear verbal submissions from him and particularly the Gisborne East Coast Branch of Farm Forestry Association.
“All the media attention since the cyclones hit the region has been on harvest residue and the role of the larger forest growers . But there are farmers in the region, and also small institutional investors, who will want their local forest interests represented as well,” West said.
“These would range from wanting to be consulted about any regulations which might be introduced, through to compensation for managed retreat.”
“For instance, we hear forest owners will not be compensated by the government’s reconstruction package. Why isn’t this primary sector supported in the national interest as farming and horticulture is?”
“Any recommendation from the Inquiry, or a resulting regulation, might be insignificant for a larger company. But it could create real difficulty for a woodlot owner.”
“We want to see small scale forestry expertise used in the solutions, particularly if it relates to tree species other than radiata pine,” West said.
Latest figures from the National Exotic Forest Description show there are more 30 thousand hectares of woodlot forests smaller than 50 hectares in Gisborne and Wairoa.
West says there is likely to additionally be more than four thousand investors who have bought a direct stake in forests in the region.
“Local farmers have planted large areas of trees on their properties in Tairāwhiti. Numbers of ordinary New Zealanders have invested as well. Iwi have a huge forestry stake.”
West also told delegates to the FFA conference that journalists and commentators need to educate themselves about the reality of 60 years of plantation forestry science in New Zealand.
“Rants in the news media endlessly repeat the same misinformation about pines, such as, it is not a productive land use. The truth is, that on hill country, many forest plantation species, and not just pines, have about twice the biological production of pasture.”
‘”Wood is now being used for thousands of products that substitute for unsustainable fossil fuel consumption.”
“Bioplastics, biofuel, heat energy, earthquake resilient structures, are just a few. Wood is used in food as a filler, and to add healthy fibre to products, in many parts of the world.”
“It doesn’t require fertiliser on most sites. It doesn’t leak nitrates and doesn’t need milking twice a day.”
“Without intensive inputs , plantation species continue to grow for at least 70 years and silently absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide.’
“Global heating from carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide is the real issue. The physics of gases reflecting the radiated heat back to earth has been known for more than 50 years.”
West said the Inquiry Panel has been advised that plantation trees offer many functional solutions for the land use problems in Tairāwhiti.
“With the right expertise, trees reduce water run-off, bind hill soils with their roots, and create wealth. Trees are also the low-cost solution to our international emissions commitments and provide a proven medium-term solution.”
“I suggest if we don’t act with some urgency, the continual change in climate will reduce the economics of all primary production to the extent we will begin to have a real decline in New Zealand’s living standards.”
“We rely on our beautiful temperate climate to generate wealth from primary production. Cyclones like Gabrielle were recently off the coast of Africa. One managed to regenerate itself seven times before it died out. New Zealand cannot afford that level of climate change.”
Biological sequestration of carbon dioxide through trees is currently the only technology we could deploy at scale to cool the planet.”
“Our strategy should be to get us quickly to carbon zero or carbon negative. This may impact on our economy – but so will doing nothing.”