Māori landowners want more certainty on exotic trees

Friday 5 Aug 2022

The National Māori Forestry Association says it is not reassured, despite a government u-turn that will keep exotic forests in the Emissions Trading Scheme. The government, in a consultation process that is still ongoing, had proposed to remove exotic trees, such as pine, from the ETS to encourage native forest planting.

It came after a backlash from the farming sector that too many beef and sheep farms on productive land would be converted to pine, thus hurting rural communities. But the moves incensed some Māori landowners, and they formed the group, Ngā Pou a Tāne / the Māori Forestry Association, off the back of it.

Some iwi rely heavily on forestry to get income from their last remaining lands, and they argued that to change the ETS would kill that income.

Last Friday, the government confirmed a partial backdown, with climate change minister James Shaw and forestry minister Stuart Nash writing to landowners to say the change is now unlikely.

"While we consulted on options to prevent exotic forests from registering in the permanent forest category by the end of the year," they wrote, "we have now decided to take more time to fully consider options for the future direction of the ETS permanent forest category.

In a statement to RNZ on Friday evening, Shaw said the concerns of Māori landowners had been heard, and that more time was needed to make sure that feedback was properly considered.

"Work will continue, with ongoing input from technical experts, stakeholders and Māori. On that basis, the permanent forestry category is unlikely to be closed to exotics from January 2023, as was proposed," Shaw said. "Final decisions will be taken by Cabinet in due course."

Association chair Te Kapunga Dewes welcomed the letter, but also said the language used did not guarantee a permanent place for exotic forests. He wanted a permanent backdown. "The wording like 'take more time', 'unlikely to propose', 'leave as it is for now'. Those elements don't provide the certainty that we as Māori need to unlock and unleash, and sustainably develop our land.

"Unfortunately, those sorts of words create uncertainty," he said. Dewes said Crown consultation had been poor, and it was only sought under the threat of legal action.

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Source: RNZ

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