Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have released a public discussion paper that seeks input on ideas for better managing afforestation.
“Climate change is a challenge that we cannot postpone. The government wants to encourage reforestation to help meet our climate change goals, offset carbon emissions and also help farmers, landowners and investors diversify their sources of income,” Nash says.
He says that under current rules, from 2023 a new permanent forest category of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) would allow exotic and native forests to be registered in the ETS and earn New Zealand Units (NZU).
“We are now proposing to exclude alien species from the permanent forest category.
“We want to encourage the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason. We intend to balance the need for reforestation with the broader needs of local communities, regional economies and the environment.
“The increase in exotic forest plantations is being spurred by rising carbon prices as landowners and investors seek higher returns. The price of NZU has more than doubled over the past year, rising from around $35 at the end of 2020 to over $80 in February 2022.
“Permanent exotic forests like radiata pine pose potential environmental and ecological risks. These include pests, fires, damaged habitats for native species, threats to biodiversity, and a relatively short lifespan compared to well-managed native mixed forests,” says Nash.
He adds that later in 2022 the government will consult on proposals that could give the local council more powers to decide under the Resource Management Act (RMA) where exotic forests are planted in their areas.
According to Climate Change Minister James Shaw, planting more trees can help New Zealand meet its climate goals, but it is important to ensure that all types of afforestation are well managed as part of the climate change framework. ETS and the planning process.
“Aotearoa was once covered in native forests, home to native birds, insects and other wildlife. Today, much of that ancient forest is gone, but what remains is still a vital carbon sink,” says Shaw.
“In its advice to government, the Climate Change Commission said we needed to increase the planting of native and exotic trees to meet our emissions targets. But they also warned that we must reduce our overall reliance on forest offsets and better manage the impacts of afforestation.
“For example, a proliferation of permanent exotic forests could lead to lower carbon prices in the long term and potentially limit investments in low-carbon technologies. At the same time, an increase in native forestry will require additional management efforts to eliminate pests that feed on native trees.
This consultation is an opportunity for anyone interested in the future of forestry to express themselves. We particularly want to hear from Maori landowners. Iwi-Maori have significant interests in permanent forestry and we want to ensure that they are not unfairly affected.
“Decisions we make now will be felt in decades to come, so it’s really important that we get it right,” says Shaw.
ACT rural spokesman Mark Cameron said the discussion paper was a welcome and late opening to the concerns of rural New Zealand.
“For too long rural New Zealand has not been listened to, in fact we have been treated with contempt by the urban political left. We’ve been saying for years that carbon farming is destroying communities and creating environmental problems for years to come,” Cameron says.
“The paper examines whether planting even more pines should be rewarded by the ETS. Environmental policy that subsidizes environmental damage is bad news. The ACT argues that environmental policy is meant to prevent damage to the environment, not subsidize it.
“It’s a welcome development that the government is listening to rural New Zealanders about a long-standing concern,” Cameron said.