A visit to Dannevirke from Stuart Nash Minister for Police, Revenue, Small Business, Fisheries and previous Labour spokesperson for Forestry and Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty on Friday afternoon June 26 was to inform and consult with the Tararua District Council on the issue of carbon farming.
Recent changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) through the Zero Carbon Bill have accentuated major concerns for farming communities, already raised by the original scheme started in 2008 where the Government gives eligible foresters units for carbon dioxide that is absorbed by their trees which can be purchased by businesses as a way of mitigating their creation of carbon through their operations.
This has led to the widespread purchase of farmland in the Tararua and the loss of valuable pastoral production with the potential to destroy communities, reduce food production and affect biodiversity.
These concerns have been highlighted to the Government, particularly through the pro-active work of the Tararua District Council which provided valuable statistical and geographic data during the public consultation before the latest changes to the ETS.
Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty has spearheaded this concern and came on Friday, June 26, with MP Stuart Nash, who has a masters degree in forestry science and forestry industry experience. They were here to allay fears and seek information on the ways to mitigate the effects of the legislation with a view of introducing new policy should a Labour-led Government return to power in September.
Nash was keen to emphasise the Government supports the ETS as a means of reducing greenhouse gases and consequently global warming. He said the planting of pines, which absorb carbon, as they grow is a good way of reducing global warming with the added benefit of reducing deposition of silt into coastal regions.
However, he and the Government were concerned at the rate at which quality farmland was being lost and announced a determination that only the steepest land (classes 6-8) should be planted. He said across New Zealand 90 per cent of planting has so far been on this land.
He said the coalition had refused to back legislation to this effect and the Government saw placing the future in the hands of local communities which could than manage the afforestation was the best solution.
He said local bodies could require that planting on classes 1-5 (higher quality) be consented through the Resource Management Act (RMA) and he discussed the concept with Tararua staff and councillors to get feed-back on its feasibility. The Government would, however, ensure any decisions will only be made after wide consultation during 2021.
Council noted there is a lack of regulatory controls and direction is needed for national consistency but supports the ability to have a local flavour. They advised the concern that a policy change may result in a rush to buy and convert land even faster than before.
McAnulty said local bodies could also have some say on the planting of pines with respect to infrastructure like roads, reticulation schemes, potential wind farm sites, fire breaks and communities. Property rights of owners also need to be carefully considered to ensure there is a balance in the solutions.
He said some regulations control plantation forest production already but these refer to managed forests designed for harvest whereas some carbon forests being planted have no such objective.
After Nash left, McAnulty stayed to discuss Tararua issues further, including the state of route 52 and gave his absolute support for the upgrade needed to make it an effective artery for Tararua.
The successful management through this year's drought for Woodville and Dannevirke with their large reservoirs was also commented on favourably and an invitation was extended for a ministerial opening of the Pahiatua Treatment Plant before the election.