The way Federated Farmers tells it, the current headlong rush into forest planting is a threat to rural community life as we know it.
The fears are understandable. New Zealanders have been retreating from the land to the city since almost as soon as settlers began arriving.
However, land use statistics don't support the notion that forestry could gobble up all the farmland in any kind of hurry.
As the graphic shows, around half of New Zealand's total landmass is in agricultural grasslands, i.e., farming. Exotic plantation forests account for less than 10 per cent.
Native forests cover around 30 per cent of the country and are also a target of the current planting spree.
In other words, it is hard to see what all the fuss is about when land use is already so heavily skewed to pastoral farming.
True, with 'peak dairy' upon us and the climate change challenge looming ever closer, land use change that favours forestry is emerging fast.
Its impact could be every bit as significant to the New Zealand economy as the axing of farm subsidies in the mid-1980s or the rush, until recently, into dairy conversions.
And, like dairying, a substantial increase in exotic and native forests will come with new environmental pressures and challenges. Pleas from environmental advocates at last week's Environmental Defence Society conference to "stop the madness" of exotic tree planting were every bit as impassioned as the fears expressed in farming communities.
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But what if farmers and environmentalists are getting this all wrong?
Successive New Zealand governments and venture capitalists have been slow to see it, but forestry is fizzing with potential not only as a short term stop-gap in the fight against climate change, but also to assist New Zealand's longer term transition to a low carbon future.
The stop-gap comes from storing carbon in the trees themselves. At current rates of progress, New Zealand is highly unlikely to meet its 2030 carbon emissions reduction targets. As a result, taxpayers will face an eye-watering bill of unknown size, based on carbon prices in 15 years' time, to cover the shortfall.
Carbon-soaking trees can help to offset that, but it only buys us about 30 years – roughly one pine plantation maturity cycle. Beyond that, a great swathe of other economic, technological and lifestyle changes will need to be in place to permanently lower carbon emissions.
Wood fibre's potential to be part of that change is huge. The wide range of products that New Zealand scientists are discovering forests can provide offers the potential not only to help the country decarbonise, but also to create whole new industries.
This is hard to imagine today. The country's wharves remain jammed with unprocessed logs heading to export markets where someone else will extract more value from them than we can. A generation of political hand-wringing has made no difference to that.
There's also been a tendency to assume that wood is for building, furniture, paper or packaging.
Yet far more exciting, commercially viable opportunities not only exist and are aching to be tapped, but are also available to New Zealand thanks to years of unsung, world-leading research and development by such bodies as Scion, the government-owned forestry research institute.
A short menu of the possible products and industries that Scion has eyes for includes: solid and liquid bio-fuels, bio-degradable wood-based plastic and textiles for use in everything from car parts to clothing, bio-chemicals, and carbon nano-fibres capable of carrying electrical currents, to name but a few.
Some are already in use. Licences for some have been sold offshore in the absence of enlightened New Zealand public policy or risk-tolerant investors.
The bigger picture behind this is forestry's contribution to a so-called 'circular bio-economy'. In this scenario, biologically produced, renewable, recyclable resources replace the fossil-based, non-recyclable fuels, plastics, textiles and chemicals that have underpinned explosive global growth since the Industrial Revolution, but whose time is rapidly passing.
There are other potential benefits. Localised processing, starting in the forests themselves, could provide the rural sector jobs that farming communities fear losing today to forestry plantation.
Elsewhere, Scion is working on self-contained wastewater and sewerage systems that could provide cost-effective alternatives to the $4 billion-plus bill that cash-strapped local bodies are facing to replace ageing 'three waters' infrastructure all around the country.
Other countries are already moving fast into these low-carbon, wood fibre-based technologies while New Zealand has stuffed around.
On-again, off-again signals to the forestry sector has seen planting wax and wane and found the sector unprepared and risk-averse when the Billion Trees initiative emerged.
However, the planting is gathering steam and the appetite for new approaches to forest-based industries is starting to change.
For a start, forestry is one of the first four sectors to be targeted for the government's Industry Transformation Plans, with a draft due some time next year.
As the drumbeat of opposition to more intensive forest planting gains political hold, a savvy government might try to push this barrow a little more urgently.