Forestry investors are delivering a clear vote of no confidence in Government policy, in an area critical for New Zealand's response to climate change.
The Ministry for Primary Industries' annual survey of forestry seedling sales makes grim reading.
Every spring, MPI surveys the nurseries to get an indication of planting. Last year's results, released two weeks ago, record a 6 per cent drop on 2013 levels and a 30 per cent fall from 2012.
It represents, MPI reckons, 43,000ha of replanting and 3000ha of new planting (afforestation). Those 3000ha are just 0.3 per cent of the 1 million ha commonly cited as the area of land which could be afforested at little opportunity cost - often with considerable environmental co-benefits.
And when nursery managers were asked about their expectations for sales this year, nine of the 20 who responded expected them to be lower than last year and only two expected sales to be higher.
So why might that be, and why should we care?
The reason it matters is clear from the chart, taken from New Zealand's submission to the annual global climate change conference held in Lima in December.
Our gross emissions are projected to be 25 per cent above 1990 levels by 2020, a figure starkly at odds with our unconditional pledge to cut emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels, on average, over 2013-2020.
So far New Zealand has been able to get away with that yawning gap - that chasm - because the international carbon accounting rules allow us to claim credits for carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere by the trees in "Kyoto" forests, those planted since 1989 on land not previously forested.
But only while the trees are growing. When they are harvested the carbon is deemed to be emitted.
The problem is that the big surge in afforestation occurred in the 1990s and as we approach the 2020s, with those forests increasingly ready for harvest, the supply of offset credits is dwindling.
Around 2020 the Kyoto forest estate will flip from being a carbon sink to a source, adding to net emissions, not reducing them.
We will won't be able to hide underlying emissions growth behind the trees any more. That will happen at precisely the time a post-2020 emissions target more ambitious than 5 per cent below 1990 is expected of New Zealand, as part of the climate treaty due to be negotiated in Paris next December.
It is already too late to do much about the 2020s.
We will just have to accept some combination of an embarrassingly weak, reputationally damaging post-2020 target and the economic cost of having to buy carbon credits from somewhere to cover the inevitable overshoot.
But that still leaves the fact that one of the most useful things New Zealand can do over the coming decades to mitigate our net impact on the global greenhouse gas level is to have an expanding forest estate.
It is not a permanent fix but it buys time while we switch to electric cars or biofuels, and figure out how to get cows to emit genteel ladylike burps instead of volcanic eructations of methane.
Which is why it is unfortunate - nay, perverse - that policymakers keep changing the rules on forest owners in an industry which, more than any other, needs stable, credible, reliable policy settings.
Seedling sales were strong in 2011 and 2012, averaging 70 million, before falling to 54 million in 2013 and 51 million last year.
The decline cannot be explained by the signals from forest product export prices.
Rather, what changed was carbon pricing, following the Government's ill-judged decision to allow New Zealand emitters unrestricted use of cheap imported carbon credits for compliance purposes under the emissions trading scheme, crowding out the New Zealand units (NZUs) issued to forest owners, whose price dropped like a stone.
Forest owners protested, to no avail.
The Government's action created an arbitrage opportunity in the substantial price differential between emission reduction units (ERUs) imported from places like Ukraine, and NZUs which, though worth a lot less than they had been, were still trading for a multiple of the few cents a tonne at which you could buy ERUs.
But when some forest owners took advantage of the arbitrage opportunity the Government had opened up, by opting out of the scheme and using ERUs to square accounts with the Crown, it responded with unheralded Budget-night legislation which, in effect, retrospectively expropriated them of securities they had lawfully purchased.
The particular rort that Budget-night legislation addressed is called reregistration arbitrage. It is the ability for foresters to game the system by registering (and collecting NZUs), then deregistering (surrendering ERUs and pocketing the difference) and then registering the same land again to repeat the process.
The legislation required post-1989 forest owners to use only NZUs when deregistering from the scheme.
It left unscathed the big end of town - smokestack emitters and oil companies exploiting the same arbitrage. The Government attempted to justify the discrimination on the grounds that the ETS gives foresters the opportunity for multiple use of the arbitrage by opting out and then back into the ETS, which other participants cannot do.
However, forest owners who simply seek to exit the scheme for good not only face a higher barrier to exit but are stuck with ERUs which are effectively worthless.
That is because emitters knew they would be able to use ERUs for compliance purposes only until next May because the Government had managed to get New Zealand excluded from international carbon markets.
The Forest Owners Association has suggested a couple of ways last May's hastily enacted legislation could be replaced by a measure that would target the loophole but avoid the collateral damage to innocent parties who just wanted out of a scheme they no longer have confidence in. It has received the ministerial brush-off.
The Government does not want to be, to even a limited extent, on the wrong end of an arbitrage which it, after all, created.
No wonder forestry investors are unimpressed. The rest of us shouldn't be either.