Comment: Government policy seems to be going out of its way to prefer forestry over farming, writes Federated Farmers Vice President and Forestry Spokesman Andrew Hoggard.

As a rule, Federated Farmers does not tell farmers what to do with their farm.

However, we are concerned to see industrial forestry replace farms, government legislation and policy potentially distorting land markets in favour of forestry, and thus the risk that mass afforestation poses to the existence of rural communities.

We understand trees can be good for several reasons including investment, animal shelter and biodiversity, but – it's about the right tree, for the right purpose.

Advertisement

There are challenges for farmers in getting trees right. They need to understand what to plant, how to plant and where. They need to know if trees can be harvested when mature, if so, how.

Read more from Federated Farmers here.

Under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), there is limited capacity to earn emission units from a planted area (a forest can only store so much carbon), raising the question of how much of the farm needs to be planted in trees.

Trees take a long time to grow and market conditions for trees could be very different than they are today.

Big forestry worries farmers because trees do not go to school, trees don't join the local rugby club and trees don't buy their groceries in town.

The Government policy seems to be going out of its way to prefer forestry over farming. Forestry puts rural communities at risk. Forestry damages rural roads and higher rates are required to repair the damage.

Feds told the Government there should not be Government subsidies available for turning farms into forests.

We've been calling for regional economic and social impact analysis by the Ministry for Primary Industries / Te Uru Rakau of One Billion Trees, reforms into requirements of overseas' investment in forestry, and ETS emission unit incentives for post - 1989 forests.

We've been pushing councils to get tougher on consents for forestry, especially around roads, the clean-up of slash on hillsides, and water.