FOA say planting increase is positive for the environment

Forest Owners Association

14 AUGUST 2023

The Forest Owners Association says an expansion of new forest planting in 2021, highlighted in a new report, is positive news for carbon capture ambitions.

Beef + Lamb NZ has released a commissioned report by Orme & Associates. Beef + Lamb complains that it is ‘alarming’ that the report shows whole-farm sales to ‘forestry interests’ amounted to 63,000 hectares in the winter of 2021.

But FOA President, Grant Dodson, says the Orme Report reveals a long-delayed and significantly more modest expansion of plantation forestry within that total, which is well overdue, and vital if New Zealand is to reach its carbon reduction targets.

Grant Dodson says it’s important to realise the national plantation forestry estate is still 70,000 hectares smaller than it was twenty years ago.

“Land use is always changing. We lost a lot of land in the first decade of this century to dairy expansion. Dairy took over a lot of sheep and beef properties as well.”

“So, I can’t understand why Beef + Lamb is so dog in a manger about trees. It’s just claimed forestry displaced 400,000 sheep in 2021-2022.”

“Yet the average yearly fall in sheep flock numbers in the four decades since the early 1980s has been nearly three times that, including during periods when forestry was shrinking.”

“And presently beef exports are at record volumes. So, the beef exporters are hardly being strangled by forest expansion either.”

Grant Dodson says the demands made by Beef + Lamb to the government to restrict forest expansion are also a violation of the right of farmers to make their own land use choices.

“Orme is stating hill country farmers are squeezed between market pressure and dangerously high costs. Its report points to the price of fertiliser in particular, as well as other powerful disincentives.”

“Orme cites ‘low farm profitability’ and ‘lack of labour in some areas’ as reasons for farmers to get at least some of their property out of livestock and into forestry. I believe it should be their choice to do that.”

The Orme Report states farmers are ‘beginning to question the business case behind staying in a traditional farming operation’.

Orme also finds that increasing numbers of these farmers are apparently entering into arrangements, such as forest leases, or carrying out in-farm conversions, rather than selling their whole farm for forestry.

Grant Dodson says the Orme Report shows, uncertainty and the regulatory obstacles to forest planting, are more against hill country farmer interests than more restrictions on forest planting.

“Orme’s concerns include the government ignoring the advice of the Climate Change Commission, and proposals to decouple the ETS from forestry.”

“These add up to what Orme considers a lot of carbon market uncertainty and a questioning of ‘the government’s level of commitment to climate change and meeting of New Zealand’s international obligations’.”

Grant Dodson says he is sure knowledgeable hill country farmers are well aware of these climate change issues working against them.

“They’ll know at some stage they will have to pay for their farm livestock emissions or will want the option to continue to be able to offset with trees.”

“Many of these farmers will have a fair idea that forestry export returns are nearly a thousand dollars a hectare more than the average of all pastoral farming.”

“And some will know that a government analysis during Covid concluded the increase in the value of forest exports by 2030 was going to be more than double that which was going to be achieved by dairy and meat exporters, combined, in the same time frame.”

“The Orme Report should be carefully considered by government, other political parties and farmers.”

“As a country, we should welcome more trees to fight climate change and to diversify and increase farm revenues. It’s critical farmers are free to choose a sustainable land use option that makes the most of their properties.”