Blanket planting of tree has put mainstream farming and rural communities at risk.

The relentless march to plant a billion trees brings with it dire consequences for mainstream New Zealand agriculture.

The very real fear is that those leading the charge simply can't see the wood for the trees.

A growing groundswell of opinion suggests the negatives of blanket planting trees far outweigh the positives and these voices are coming from farmers and even rural real estate agents themselves.

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Bayleys Whanganui country and lifestyle agents Knud Bukholt and Tracey Wilson say there is a significant increase in the level of interest in land suitable for forestry planting.

"Given the Government has come out with a clear mandate on forestry with a focus on regional development that has forestry within it, there is a very attractive pathway there for both local and overseas buyers to invest into the sector," they said quoting from an issue of Bayleys' Rural Insight magazine.

There is ample evidence to suggest that the pathway to overseas purchase of land in New Zealand is far easier to navigate if forestry is the main aim of the investor rather than livestock or arable farming.

The problem is that large multi-nationals have no interest in subdividing off the good grazeable land after buying a large station and simply blanket plant trees.

This means capital breeding stock come off the hills never to return and small rural communities wither and die with no work to keep them afloat.

Rural communities are being gutted by the sale of farm land for tree planting, lured by taxpayer-funded subsidies for carbon credits. Farms generate seven jobs per 1000 hectares, forestry one. Schools shut when pine tree close in.

Derek Daniell, principal of Wairere Rams, one of the most respected ram breeders in the country, had devoted much of his Wairere May newsletter to this very subject.

"Many large farms are being converted to trees, some lured by planting subsidies available from the Billion Trees programme, and all by the promise of $25 per tonne for carbon credits, all underwritten by you, the taxpayers," Daniell said in his newsletter.

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"We are witnessing a huge change to the New Zealand landscape and economy, all for an international agreement which has been assessed as having an infinitesimal effect on global temperature, even if all countries achieve GHG reductions to match their targets.

"This blanket forestry would not be happening without the Paris Accord. Other countries are well behind in meeting their interim targets. The reality is that the modern world is married to oil for heating and cooling, plastics, synthetic fibres and transport, with no alternative cheap and clean source of energy on the horizon.

And, vitally important, food production is dependent on nitrogen fertiliser from oil. Sixty per cent of the world population would starve without it.

"Pastoral farming earned 49 per cent of New Zealand's merchandise exports in 2017-18. Yet we are being sacrificed on the altar of an ideology. I'm part of an action group of Wairarapa farmers, 50shadesofgreen.co.nz, which is determined to change the government's approach to the Zero Carbon bill.

"Our landscape is in danger of becoming one shade of green, the dark, DEAD green of Pinus radiata. It's now or never. Please support us over the next few months. The fight is on," Daniell said.

Daniell said there was simply no fairness at play.

"Agriculture in New Zealand is being unfairly treated by government. Our 10 million cattle and 27 million sheep will be taxed for natural GHG emissions. Almost all the other 1.2 billion cattle and 1 billion sheep in the world will not be taxed. How fair is that?

"Why not tax rice paddies for methane emissions? Because no country will do it."


GOODBYE FARMS, GONE TO TREES

+ Lagoon Hills, south of Martinborough, was running 9800 Wairere bred ewes last spring. Docking percentage was 140, despite storm losses, a tribute to young manager Tom Lilley.

+ Manawaimai, Whanganui, sold to a joint venture company between My Farm and Comvita. The plan is to plant Manuka. One of the late Alastair Polson's last decisions was to buy 65 Wairere Challenger ram lambs in March 2014. This bold decision paid dividends, the Romney cross over the composite flock breeding a more robust type. Manager Alex Matthews won both huntaway titles at the national dog trial champs last year, a rare double. But now has to find another farm.

+ Hadleigh, just 15 minutes from Masterton: this 14,000 stock unit property has a lot of easy country, but a 6km "private" side road attracted Waverley's Roger Dickie to act for a foreign consortium. Foreign buyers can receive carbon credits from New Zealand taxpayers is this social welfare for foreigners? And who owns the carbon credits? New Zealand? Or the purchasers, who may choose to use them for offsetting somewhere else in the world?

+ David Gower, Whanganui, sold to a farmer who will let the manuka spread naturally. This was harder country, with some natural manuka.

"In my opinion, manuka is preferable to pine trees. There is a cashflow from honey within several years of planting. And, it is much easier to recover hill country from manuka to pasture than from pines," Daniell said.