‘Emotional stress' and pressure over forestry land sales

Friday 1 Oct 2021

A Wairarapa farmer Steve Thomson says selling his sheep and beef station to forestry three years ago was a difficult decision but he had struggled for two years to sell to other farmers. Tensions around the issue of farms converting to forestry across New Zealand been increasing because of the impact it could have on rural communities. But most see the problem as stemming from Government policy rather than greed, farmers say.

Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said there was no transparency about how much farm land was going to forestry because only the current land use is recorded at the time of the sale. Thomson said after selling Bushgrove, on one occasion he was criticised by some farmers at a pub, but later received a number of calls from people who said he didn’t deserve it.

Thomson had batted off three forestry companies because he wanted to sell to other farmers. But two groups of farmers had pulled out at the last minute.“I definitely didn’t want to sell to forestry, but when the second lot pulled out, at that stage farming wasn’t that flash and we were concerned about further droughts. I think that the fact that we struggled to sell it to another farmer tells you a bit about the farm.”

Thomson had farmed the land for 38 years and was keen to get out. “It was more hard country than easy country. And our son had told us prior to that, that he didn’t want to farm it and our daughter kept saying ’just get out’.” Sheep and beef farmer and Federated Farmers forestry spokesman William Beetham, said farmers who sold land to investors for forestry conversions often found the decision an agonising dilemma that pitted financial benefit against the social fabric of rural life.

What was often forgotten was that the farmer often had to consider the interests of a wide range of people, including the beneficiaries of family trusts, who might not be as connected to the land, Beetham said.

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Source: Stuff

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