Australasia's home for timber news and information

Forest Owners discourage deforestation

The Forest Owners Association (FOA) is calling on the Government to do more to discourage deforestation in New Zealand. Sources: Timberbiz. Scoop News, Radio New Zealand

On United Nations International Day of Forests held on 21 March, the association said the Government was failing to recognise the role they play in combating climate change.

Chief executive FOA, David Rhodes, said about 10000 hectares was deforested in New Zealand last year, as owners pursued more lucrative means of using the land, such as dairying.

He said to reverse that trend the Government could do more to raise the price of carbon credits from about NZ$6 each to NZ$15.

Mr Rhodes said that would encourage owners to retain or replant their forests.

Forest owners and wood processors worldwide are calling for governments to recognise the role of forests and wood products in combating climate change.

Forests and climate change was the theme of the 2015 United Nations International Day of Forests.

“What we are looking for is a real carbon price that reflects the value of tree planting. Not one that has been watered down,” said Forest Owners Association president Paul Nicholls.

“We need consistent long term policies that give forest owners the confidence to retain existing forests and plant new ones.”

The International Council of Forest and Paper Associations promote both measures globally. The council said that a clear long-term agreement is needed globally in order to reap the positive contributions of forests and forest products in combating climate change.

Mr Nicholls said that New Zealand needs to be lobbying in global forums for policies that provide forest owners with an income for the ecosystem services they provide.

It also needs to be walking the talk by having these policies in place at home.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said political commitment at the highest levels is needed, along with smart policies and innovative partnerships, to build a sustainable, climate-resilient future for all.

He said that means investing in the world’s forests.

“While New Zealand has an Emissions Trading Scheme it has been watered-down to such an extent that in each of the last two years, we estimate that about 10,000 hectares were deforested – a figure that under existing policy settings could climb rapidly from 2020 when forests planted in the 1990s are harvested,” Mr Nicholls said.

He said the loss of forests and their conversion to farming results in a climate double-whammy. Deforestation results in a greenhouse gas spike, then there are ongoing emissions from the new land use.

As a forester, he said it personally saddens him to see large-scale deforestation, but the owners are simply responding to government policies and market signals.

“For this situation to be reversed our major political parties need to re-think their land-use policies and put the underlying principles of the RMA into practice.

“Forest owners need to be rewarded, not penalised, for the eco-system services their forests provide the country and other land users.”

He said the message that successive governments and regional councils have been giving land owners is that when there is an environmental issue, livestock farming will always be advantaged as a land use over forestry.

“Time after time, the environmental services provided by forestry are either devalued – as with carbon in post-1989 forests – or nationalised – as with nitrogen from livestock in the Lake Taupo catchment.

“Such policies have the effect of raising land values for farmland, making it unaffordable for forest planting.

“Secondly, they reduce the value of forest land relative to other land uses. It’s a powerful incentive not to plant trees.

“As if this was not enough, we now have some farmer groups lobbying to prevent further dairy conversions in some catchments. Instead of calling for nitrogen emissions to be allocated evenly to all land users in the catchment, which would be in accord with RMA principles, they are in effect signalling to forest owners to convert to dairy while they still have time.”

Mr Nicholls said the irony is that increased forest planting is a win for the economy and a win for the environment.