The future of district given the threat of re-afforestation of top-quality farmland was the subject of lengthy discussion at Wednesday's meeting of Tararua District Council.
The issue was brought to its attention by local farmer Dan Ramsden and Wright Broughton during the public forum segment of the meeting.
Ramsden's concern relates to the rapid encroachment of pine forests on to established farmland which had been developed into top-quality sheep/beef stations over the past 150 years.
He sees four major issues which are already beginning to materialise in the Pongaroa-Akitio area.
One of his major concerns is the risk of fire in the district.
He pointed out that there is a real shortage of stored water in the eastern parts of the district and with trees planted right down to the coast he said, "lives and properties will be lost and infrastructure like power lines destroyed."
He believes what happened last year in Nelson could be repeated in Tararua on an even larger scale.
His second concern related to the impact on farms left behind. With property valuations up for review he worries about rate rises based on forestry values.
He does not believe farmers should have to fund the upkeep of roads and other infrastructure damaged by logging trucks.
His third concern related to the depopulation of the district and the destruction of the fabric of rural communities. With declining farm employment he sees the communities decreasing and particularly the loss of young people.
"Trees don't raise families he said."
The flow-on effect to larger towns like Dannevirke and Pahiatua was his fourth point suggesting the decline of farming related businesses will impact severely.
"We've already lost one freezing works," he said. "Don't let Dannevirke become a ghost town."
His opinions were supported by Broughton, who said the region had already lost five thriving schools in the past 10 years and forestry would hasten the process.
He said Weber's experience of forestry over the last 30 years had proven wrong the claim tree-planting, pruning and harvesting would employ locals.
"I know of only two locals who have found employment in this scheme at the moment," he said.
"We have gone from the many farms that supported families, schools, sports clubs, social groups to pine trees that support nothing," he added.
Broughton was also concerned by the damage to the coastal environment from pine trees runoff.
"I personally can take you to a bay where my forebears caught their kaimoana which is now devoid of any seafood at all as a result of the insidious impact of pine needles," he said.
In response Mayor Tracey Collis said she is very concerned about the issue.
She said she fields two phone calls a day from people expressing their concern.
Councillor Shirley Hull reported it was the main topic of conversation in the district.
Councillor Jim Crispin says he feels so strongly his real estate business will take no part in the sale of farms for forestry.
Deputy Mayor Allan Benbow asked the presenters what the council could do and the response from Ramsden was to make the seriousness of the issue known to both central Government and Horizons Regional Council.
He suggested Shane Jones, Minister for Forestry and Regional Economic Development, should be invited to come and see for himself the consequences of his government's policies.
Subsequent discussions during the meeting raised another issue related to forestry when Tararua Alliance Manager Dan Prichard confirmed that river and road damage from forestry slash being washed into the rivers and repair to roads from logging trucks was the responsibility of the council to fix.
Hull called for more data on road usage in the district so that the impact of logging trucks could be measured.
There was discussion about what the council could do to influence where trees are planted.
It was confirmed that forestry is an official permitted activity over which the council has no control.