The northern and southernmost councils in Hawke's Bay are teaming up to study the effects of forestry on their communities.
However, those in the forestry industry have hit back at the study's aims, saying it is "anti-forestry" and "contradictory" to the climate change policies of the Hawke's Bay region.
Tararua mayor Tracey Collis and Wairoa mayor Craig Little have called on fellow rural provincial councils to contribute to a collaborative study looking at the impacts of forestry on local communities.
The study would look at the impact of forestry on the four wellbeings – social, cultural, economic and environmental; the effects of forestry on soil and water quality; damage caused to roading; fire risk; and the future of carbon farming.
The study would also look at government-related policies such as the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NESPF) regulations, which override district councils powers, Overseas Investment Office processes and classification of land use.
President of the Forest Owners Association Phil Taylor said it was contradictory for Wairoa district to consider climate change as a key issue while simultaneously "lead[ing] a national charge to put every obstacle in the way of achieving carbon sequestration through forestry".
However, Little insists it's "not anti-forestry".
"The biggest thing is to get something to the Government to work with and change policies."
While climate change was a key concern, he said council was also worried about the impact on the community.
"We've got a lot of forestry in Wairoa. We are not anti-them.
"We'd love to get more jobs out of it. At the moment, those trees go on the truck and out of town."
Collis said Tararua had always had a mix of pastoral farming and forestry and have industry based around both.
"The rate of land use change has been incredibly fast," she said. "Of the 12,137ha traded in 2019, a total of 10,171ha has gone into forestry. The biggest change has been that 31 percent of this figure is carbon forestry, 25 percent forestry and 37 percent pastoral use.
"The change in 2019 equated to the loss of 50,000 sheep and 20,000 cattle - what does this mean to us locally, regionally and nationally? The community are seeing and feeling the change on the ground.
"We also hear loudly the concern in both the community and our fire service volunteers around the increased risk of fires especially as we face climate change. Another unintended consequence starting to appear is the disruption to wireless internet services to our rural communities."
She said pending reports council was working on with MPI, were not anti-forestry or prejudiced.
Taylor said the recent MPI-commissioned PwC Report found forestry was much higher in earning power and employment than using the hill country land for continuing to farm livestock. But Little felt there were contradictions in such reports.
He said some councils, like Hawke's Bay Regional Council, had recognised opportunities for forestry on land that wasn't suitable for farming.
"Some councils see forestry as a good income, earning investment for future generations, and doing their bit for the environment at the same time."
Fellow forester and Farm Forestry Association president Graham West said the terms of reference in the study were "fixated on forestry".
He said he wanted to see the mayors focus on a "broader and objective" report.
"East Coast councils should be carefully looking at the impact of climate change in an already dry region, and what viable land use options there are, including a mix of forestry.
"Banning tree planting is not going to increase wool prices, nor ward off the threat of synthetic meat. New local processing industries, for both food and fibre, need to be developed. These will support farming communities in the longer term."
Taylor also felt the study was "skewed" and wanted councils to reconsider signing on.
"It would be a good time for local government to do an objective analysis of land use choice and opportunities.
"Our industry would be delighted to have input into this, as I am sure would Federated Farmers and other farm organisations."