Welcome Recognition for Forest Benefits

Published: Wed 20 Dec 2006 10:08 AM
20 November 2005
Welcome Recognition for Forest Benefits
The New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF) is pleased that the government is providing some recognition of the benefits provided by forests. “The announcement this week that $100 million is to be allocated to assist afforestation is a long overdue demonstration of the contribution that forests, and the owners of forest land, make towards reducing soil erosion and improving water quality” said NZIF President Jaquetta (Ket) Bradshaw.
The announcement was made by Forestry Minister Jim Anderton when launching a discussion document on Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change. The document contains a number of forestry and agricultural options that the government is investigating as part of its climate change initiatives.
Ms Bradshaw noted “As they grow, forests remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Carbon is stored in the growing trees and in the products produced from trees when they are harvested. They do this better than any other land use. Whereas NZ agriculture added 37 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2004 and energy use added another 31 million tonnes, the NZ forests removed over 24 million tonnes and locked it up in the trees. It is obvious that any initiatives that increase the area of forests make good sense from a climate change point of view.”
The NZIF Council is looking forward to working through the various options with its members in the New Year and expects to be able to make some helpful contributions. “For a forest owner conducting “business as usual forestry” where forests are routinely re-establishing as they are harvested, the options appear to offer little, either as an incentive or a disincentive. There could, however, be problems where an owner wants to rationalise forest holdings by not replanting some areas but expanding forest into other areas. While it may not be allowed under the accounting rules of the Kyoto Protocol, it is important from a climate change point of view to maintain or increase the total forest area rather than allowing it to decrease. Locking-in land use in perpetuity as the options appear to envisage makes no sense from a sensible, sustainable land use perspective. We hope that ways can be found to accommodate such flexibility into the finally adopted policy.”
The Institute will be keen to see that the options eventually adopted by government will treat alternative land uses in a consistent and even-handed manner and that these are extended to provisions in regional and district plans. With the urgent need to take action against climate change it is crazy to perpetuate land use regulations that discriminate against a climate friendly and sustainable land use such as forestry.
“We also want to see policies that provide long term certainty for those who take on a long term investment such as forestry”, said Ms Bradshaw. “Radiata forests take at least 27 years to mature and the limited (five year) horizons of the Kyoto commitment periods make it very difficult for investors to determine the economics of investing in one period when little return will be received over the next five periods, and with the prospect of changes in the rules in each new period.” NZIF believes that much of the current debate about liabilities on deforestation could have been avoided if there had been an early and fully defined decision on what would happen in the event that a deforestation liability arose – who would be liable and how it would be calculated.
A further aspect that NZIF hopes will be clarified is how the policies will apply to Maori land, and particularly where land subject to Crown forestry licences is returned to Maori under Treaty of Waitangi settlements. As the licences do not allow replanting of forests by the licensee when the land is returned to Maori, it would seem inequitable for the licensee to be faced with a deforestation liability. Equally, it would appear inequitable either to penalise the Maori owners for not replanting or to require them to re-establish forests on land that has been returned to them as part of a Treaty Settlement.
“Forests are an essential part of the contribution that New Zealand can make to ameliorating global climate change. We urgently need policies put in place that encourage commercial forestry, including the domestic use of wood and other forest products and that recognise the contribution that forests and forest owners make to the economic, environmental and social life of our country. The discussion paper is a step on the way and we look forward to working with government to develop and expand on the options that it has presented to us.”

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