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Forest Owners frustrated with constraints imposed on primary sector

The Forest Owners Association is sympathising with some farmer frustrations over the pace of regulations being imposed on the primary sector in New Zealand. Source: Timberbiz

Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor says the time has long since passed for anyone to think there are free rides on the environment anymore.

He says it’s vital to acknowledge the need for new exotic forests to sequester enough carbon for New Zealand to reach zero carbon by 2050, without putting impossible burdens on sectors of the economy, including agriculture.

But Mr Taylor says some of the constraints on agriculture now being imposed, or suggested, don’t make sense and jeopardise the viability of the productive land economy throughout New Zealand.

Mr Taylor identifies the rules around designating Significant Natural Areas in particular.

“It seems as though there is no vestige of vegetation anywhere – town, city or rural that can’t be arbitrarily classed as an SNA,” he said.

“The more foresters, farmers, or anyone who plants native trees in city backyards as well, and then take care of and look after these native trees or wildlife, then paradoxically the more officials are going to prevent them using their land in a productive way.

“If the government really wants to maintain and enhance indigenous biodiversity then it should turn its attention to a chronically under-resourced Department of Conservation estate.  Or it should supply conservation services to meaningfully assist landowners in their own biodiversity efforts.”

He said that plantation forests, like many farms, intrinsically have extensive native reserves, riparian strips and wetlands all throughout their forest blocks.   Forest companies have undertaken to follow best practice conservation measures to protect endangered species of birds, reptiles, bats, amphibians and plants.  There were many examples nationwide where forest owners are leading conservation efforts with endangered species.

“It seems that there is a regulatory approach which starts with a rushed list of rules and then looks for places to make them fit,” Mr Taylor said.

“We all want to see better protecton of our biodiversity, but one size does not fit all land and if we users of a land resource – foresters or farmers – are prevented from using that land then the national income takes a big hit in the long term.

“We do support many of the changes the government is undertaking.  They are essential to preserve our environment, but they also need to create a more sustainable economy at the same time.  This is not in the least because forestry has a huge role to play in carbon lock-up and increased export earnings.

“However, if private land is going to be appropriated for the provision of public good the government needs to rethink how the costs are going to be met and where the efforts are applied,” Mr Taylor said.