Labour shifts goalposts on forestry goal

Friday 16 Jul 2021

Labour has quietly shifted the goalposts on its first campaign promise of the 2020 campaign, a policy that would make it more difficult to plant swathes of New Zealand’s prime food-producing land in trees to harvest carbon credits.

Last July, Labour's rural communities spokesman Kieran McAnulty and Forestry spokesman Stuart Nash promised that within six months of the next Government being formed, Labour would amend National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to allow councils to determine for themselves what classes of land can be used for plantation and carbon forests.

Resource consent would have been required for plantation forests to be grown on land known as "elite soils", land which has a Land Use Capability Class of 1-5. Land of a higher ranking, deemed less essential for food production, could still be used for forestry as now.

The policy responded to fears from some rural communities that the high price of carbon under the emissions trading scheme was encouraging swathes of the countryside to be planted in pine trees. As the price of carbon rose, it became more economical to convert productive farmland to pine forests.

That original policy has been canned, as has the six-month deadline, which expired two months ago. However, both Nash and McAnulty said the Government will still enact policy to get the right trees planted in the right parts of rural New Zealand. The Government is delaying the work while it worked up a response to the Climate Change Commission's advice on how to meet the country's emissions reduction commitments.

Nash said the task of changing land use rules for forestry was bigger than he first anticipated. "You scratch the surface and actually we understand that there's a little bit more work to do than I had initially planned," Nash said.

Source: NZ Herald

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