Carbon farmer questions forestry land facts

Friday 23 Aug 2019

New Zealand’s largest carbon-farming company says there is more marginal land available for forestry than officials are telling the Government. Officials have apparently told MPs that 30 per cent of current agricultural land will “have to be planted” in trees if New Zealand is to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets under the zero-carbon bill.

But carbon-farming pioneer Matt Walsh says they are wrong, and that 16 per cent of the country’s 2050 target can be met by planting trees on marginal land. Walsh is chief executive of New Zealand Carbon Farming, a company that owns or manages 73,000 hectares of post-1989 forests under the Emissions Trading Scheme and expects that by 2050 it will have at least 120 million trees in the ground, meeting three per cent of the country’s target of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions.

And that’s just for starters, he told Parliament’s Environment Select Committee this week. “With the right settings in the ETS, we can look at 600 million trees, or 60 per cent of the Billion Trees programme, meeting 60 per cent of New Zealand’s 2050 target from our company alone,” he said. “And it will not stop there. We expect our industry partners to also be investing and planting.”

Walsh says none of the planting needs to be done on arable land, a statement that was questioned by National MP Erica Stanford. “We have heard from officials that 30 per cent of our agricultural land will have to be planted,” she said. “It’s so different from what you’re saying with these different grade lands. “You make it sound great, but the advice we’ve got is not that.”

Walsh told her the officials were wrong. “We have had a series of debates with officials on this subject,” he said. “We have shown them our maps. We have demonstrated the evidence of what is available in terms of marginal to plant and for reasons that we don’t understand, they disagree.”

NZ Carbon Farming’s compliance and regulatory manager, Jill Garing, said she thought it came down to a matter of detail; officials were looking for large areas of marginal land for planting, but often didn’t see the small pockets of land available on individual farms. Walsh said planting these small areas for carbon could provide valuable income for farmers.

Source: Carbon News 2019

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