In its submission to the Government’s consultation on proposals that aim to limit the increasing amount of exotic carbon forestry planting across New Zealand, particularly on productive sheep and beef farmland, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) says more work needs to be done.
The consultation – ‘Managing exotic afforestation incentives’ – closed on 22 April and B+LNZ provided a detailed submission. During the consultation period B+LNZ worked closely with DairyNZ and Federated Farmers and the three organisations’ submissions are closely aligned.
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said the problem of an increasing rate of exotic carbon forestry planting on productive farmland needs urgent action, but it’s equally important that the right action is taken.
“We applaud the Government for the intent behind this consultation to limit carbon-only farming by limiting exotic forestry in the permanent category of the ETS. However we don’t think this proposal will go far enough to stop the deeply concerning number of farms being sold into forestry and to address the gutting of rural communities.
“This proposal is tinkering around the edges and we need to see a fundamental decision about how we use trees in transitioning to a low emissions future. Our position remains that we need to see specific limits in the ETS on the amount of offsetting fossil fuel emitters can do – in line with what happens in other countries internationally.
“We also have questions about the specific design of the proposal to remove exotic trees from the permanent category relating to the feasibility of implementing what’s proposed, and concerns about the lack of detail around crucial aspects within the proposal such as an exemptions regime.
“Given this, we’re proposing a moratorium on allowing exotic forests entry into the ETS under the permanent forest category – for at least two years – to give us time to develop a suite of policy mechanisms. This could include a potential exemptions or standards regime for that category, but must look at a range of wider policy tools and settings – such as limits on forestry offsetting – to ensure we have the right incentives to encourage integrated planting.”
Mr McIvor acknowledges a moratorium would impact the ability for more desirable integrated plantings to enter into this category, such as poplar or willow planting for erosion control. It also impacts on some landowners’ (especially iwi) desires to establish exotic plantings which then transition to native forest over time.
“However we believe this moratorium would in fact provide time to get the rules right so we can best provide for these activities. To be clear, we can see a role for appropriately managed permanent exotics within farms, and we want to support this – our concern is the sale of whole farms for conversion into permanent carbon farming.
“The Government needs to take a step back and look at a whole package of policy responses to this issue. The recent work by Lawrence Yule to identify responses provides an excellent starting point and we’re willing to work with the Government and other submitters on finding the right solutions.
“We acknowledge that this is a complex problem but it has real-world implications for farming, iwi, rural communities and New Zealand.
“New Zealand’s ETS is a market-based mechanism, created to offset carbon emissions. It has created very real problems and we need to address these rather than pushing the problem down the road and transferring the short and longer-term land management impacts to local government, the wider community and future generations.
“The Government has created a scheme that’s about short-term thinking and short-term profits. We instead need to take a long-term view of land-use decisions. Current policies are incentivising land-use changes that are hurting our rural communities and this has to stop before more damage is done.
“We’re really pleased the Government is willing to take action on addressing this issue and in this respect we’ve made real progress. However, we’re not quite there yet.
“It’s also worth noting that our farmers have been working tirelessly as good stewards of their land and the vegetation on it. We constantly hear that they want to do more but are limited by what resources they have. I’ve said it before – we’re not anti-forestry. But let’s get more trees in the ground in a considered way, put there by the people who know their land best, and let’s make planting natives more attractive. That’s going to take some work but we look forward to being part of making that happen.”
Access B+LNZ’s submission here (PDF, 1.35MB)
For more information, please contact B+LNZ’s Katie Jans on 027 838 6353.