An initiative to mitigate climate impacts led by Tararua District Council has concerned some farmers who say they're already part of a similar programme.
Farmers and other stakeholders attended a workshop last week where an exploration into tree species suitable to the district was presented.
The workshop outlined the commercial and geographical viability of a mix of tree species, with the top 10 being: radiata pine, coast redwoods, cypresses, dryland eucalyptus, totara, manuka, kauri, poplar silvopastoral systems, douglas fir and tawa.
Council economic development adviser Angela Rule said three case studies were carried out and in all of them there was a "positive financial gain by identifying low performance blocks and incorporating afforestation into the farm business model".
"Moreover, there was a decrease in the environmental footprint, with one case study reducing nitrogen losses to water by 20 per cent."
But Federated Farmers Tararua president Sally Dryland said while it was good to get people together, it wasn't enough.
"The report's been a long time coming and the data is now worse than what was presented because of the time delays in getting it out there.
"It concerns me that we still don't have an accurate picture of what's happening regarding afforestation."
She said there had already been changes in farming practices with the SLUI (Sustainable Land-Use Initiative) programme, which farmers could opt into.
Run by Horizons Regional Council, the programme's focus was on supporting the building of resilience to storms, improving water quality and reducing sedimentation.
It also had benefits in reducing the impact of climate change.
Farmers were able to get grants for pine trees at 50 per cent of establishment costs.
If they chose to plant other species, they could still only get the grant at the pine rate.
Dryland said the programme, which started in 2006, was working well but there was no credit given to that.
"Farmers are already retiring areas that were unsuitable for farming."
A key part of the programme, according to Horizons, was around the development of whole farm plans with farmers.
Dryland said there were 264 out of 396 hill country farmers within the district who already had the information provided in the plans, 14,400 hectares of erosion works on farms had been completed, incorporating nearly 12 million trees, plus 750km of fencing.
"Farmers know what needs to be done.
"Carbon forestry isn't necessarily the best option."
Dryland said the study highlighted plantings for 2019 alone which impacted spending locally with a drop in up to $2.1 million.
"What's the long term impact in that and how does it increase when we add in conversions for 2020 and 2021?
"I don't think the local towns realise that a lot of the income that comes in to the townships comes from farmers' spending.
"Carbon forestry offers none of that."
Farmers did see the value of trees, Dryland said.
"In 2011, our SLUI whole farm plan identified for us to be carbon neutral, we had to plant a quarter of our farm in trees.
"Now we've retired a lot of areas and … done that work and we are nearly carbon neutral, but not quite.
"How do we incentivise farmers to continue doing that?"
Much of the focus of afforestation was on financial returns but not every farmer saw that as the be all and end all.
"Farmers value community and future opportunities for locals. This includes tendered plantation forests where timber is harvested, " Dryland said.
"I think that farmers, because they're driven by community and long-term values, they find it really hard at the moment to find that financially, they'd be better off walking off.
"You can't blame them. If you're an older farmer, the money on the table to sell trees is huge.
"Those generational farmers that are looking at it and wanting to pass it on to the next one, that really value what they have, they're also getting weakened, because if you've got trees as neighbours, they're not necessarily the best neighbour.
"There's more pest animals like deer, pigs and hares, plants like old man's beard spread more easily, the fire risk goes up, more pollen in the air, less volunteers for the school working bees, community fundraisers, fire brigades, absent owners too often aren't concerned with the condition of boundary fences."
Mayor Tracey Collis said one of the challenges of the study had been that it was impacted by Covid.
She said the rules around the virus had caused delays.
From what she understood, the report on Right Tree, Right Place was around land diversification, which was different from the SLUI programme.
"It's actually about diversifying your income and what trees would do that, as opposed to just planting for erosion."
The diversification wasn't all about money, she said.
Some of it was also around shade planting for stock and tiered grazing.
"There are trees and other plants that animals eat and that's why I call it tiered grazing."
While pine trees were the first species of tree that people looked at, there were other options out there.
Collis said there was a significant amount of research.
She said she had met with Craig Nash from Accelerate 25 which facilitates initiatives, enables investment and drives growth off central government funding programmes and strategies to establish the Central North Island as a growth centre for the New Zealand economy.
"He'd read the whole report and he said it was a very good piece of work.
"That was at a regional level."
Collis said it was understanding that change was happening in the community.
"Land is changing and it continues to change. We need to understand that and what's driving those changes."