You can make almost double just by shutting up your farm and not worrying about production in forestry if sheep and beef farmers convert to carbon sink farming, says Makairo farmer Lincoln Grant.

"It spells the end of farming in the Tararua District at this stage but its all dependent upon Government policy," he says. "You're at the mercy of it. The disturbing thing about selling New Zealand farmland to foreign countries to plant trees to claim carbon credits is that they will take the profit from the carbon credits back offshore. They will leave us with absolutely nothing.

"The medium to long-term effect for New Zealand is just dire from that. With stumps and slash, 150 years of fencing and tracking will be completely lost — it will be all ruined. To start from scratch with a pine forest it would never be economic to turn it back into a sheep and beef farm again.

"Industries would be lost, shepherds, shearers, top dressing pilots, vets. Someone said it's the equivalent of putting them [the farms] in concrete — they'll never be used for anything else.

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"What Forestry New Zealand is saying is very misleading. I can't see how their claims of job creation are true. What's happening in the Tararua District is these carbon farms are being planted into no-cut pinus radiata. Once the initial planting has gone on there'll be NO jobs (thinning and pruning) compared to existing farms with a couple of fulltime shepherds, shearers, fencers, maintenance workers, right through to your farm stores.

"The forestry company isn't going to be spending money in the town like that. Workers have come in from outside of the area and are planting Tuscan Hills and Te Rimu right now. The figures I heard were that there was seven times as many employed in sheep and beef as forestry. With no-cut carbon forestry, there are no jobs in that other than the initial plant. Then that's it forever.

"The Government is abandoning good sheep and beef country to favour this woolly idea of carbon farming. They've abandoned an industry that's served us very well for the last 150 years for something that's not going to save the planet.

"They're not doing anything meaningful about our dependence on fossil fuel. It's disgusting really — it shows no respect for our industry. These pine trees will eventually fall over and rot. They're not like a rimu that'll be here for hundreds of years.
"The Government's DoC policy talks about the problem of wilding pines taking over, affecting biodiversity. Another branch of government, Forestry New Zealand, contradicts this, saying to plant pine trees. We need to see who is telling the truth.

"There are trees everywhere when I drive around — shelter belts on farms and bush. Billion Trees policy is not about a need for trees, it's just politics."

He says a Canterbury University study showed 2.8 million ha of native bush to be on New Zealand Beef & Sheep farms. Around 25 per cent of New Zealand's native bush is actually on our sheep and beef farms. Around 1.4 million ha of that is classified as native forest, the rest is regenerating bush.

"When they worked out that agriculture is making up 48 per cent of our carbon emissions, they haven't deducted the mitigating effect of the 2.8 million ha of native bush, plus all the shelter belts plus all the trees plus the positive effect of the pasture photosynthesising carbon dioxide into oxygen. A farm is an ecosystem, it's not a factory shoving out a whole lot of gas.

"A lot of farms are close to carbon neutral, the figures from Government have been falsified. They're not showing much empathy towards the farming community. Agriculture is our culture, it's been something we've been doing since the pioneers. People have worked hard for generations. To throw all that away for an easy way to meet our climate change obligation is scandalous, really,."

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WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

Job creation in a community from forestry vs grassland farmland — which creates the most jobs ultimately?

Figures supplied by Forestry New Zealand:

• The forestry and wood processing sector is worth $6.8 billion, employs over 35,000 people across the value chain and covers 1.73 million hectares of land. That equates to $3.95 million and over 20 people employed for every 1000 hectares.

• The sheep and beef industry is worth $10.1 billion, employs over 66,000 people and covers 8.5 million hectares. That equates to $1.18 million and 7.8 people employed for every 1000 hectares.