Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor. Picture/file
While the government must address carbon farming in New Zealand, farmers can also play their part in preventing the practice from spiraling out of control, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
Rural communities have expressed concern that prime land for sheep and cattle is being sold and then planted with pine trees for carbon credits.
O’Connor agreed pine was not the way to go and said the government needed to make sure “we have the right tree in the right place”.
However, it was the Kiwi farmers who were selling that land and the government couldn’t get involved, he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.
“We have farms that were planted with radiata – probably inappropriately – but they were sold to New Zealanders.
“When we step in and say to a farmer, ‘you can sell to this person but not to that’ in New Zealand, it gets a bit tricky.
“So farmers selling to those who are going to plant them in pine trees should think again – maybe they should just sell to a farmer who is going to farm the property.”
There were “lots of issues” to be resolved and O’Connor said the government was committed to tweaking the legislation because the pins were “not appropriate”.
“Clearly we need to make some adjustments now because planting radiata pine for permanent forests is not environmentally sustainable.
“Native forest, yes – in the right place. So those are the issues we’re working on.”
There were also “a lot of people who put in a lot of money” and O’Connor said to “make sure they don’t lose that overnight”.
“So there’s a transition process that’s needed, clear signals that we don’t want the wrong tree in the wrong place.”
He said the issue was something he was currently looking into.
“It’s both changes to the RMA and the National Environmental Standards that have been negotiated for forestry – all of those things need adjusting and indeed I discussed this at length yesterday.”
Also in today’s interview: O’Connor said New Zealand agriculture is in good shape for 2022 and discussed what Omicron could mean for the healthcare system.