Major parties need to embrace trees

26 Jul 2005

Forest owners are welcoming NZ First and United Future policies which call for an increase in government-funded tree planting schemes.

In NZ First's environment policy announced on Sunday, party leader Winston Peters proposed planting an extra 10 million native and exotic trees each year for the next 10 years — "as a minimum".

"Mr Peters is of course reinforcing a message that we have made on numerous occasions and we welcome this type of approach from any quarter," said Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

Mr Peters said young growing trees would do most for the environment, and would help reduce the $500 million greenhouse gas bill which taxpayers would otherwise be footing for the government’s Kyoto policies.

United Future environment spokesperson Larry Baldock last month said the government should embark on "a massive programme of tree planting to soak up carbon dioxide".

Mr Rhodes says forest owners are keen to also see from the major parties policies which recognise that forestry offers substantial environmental and social benefits to New Zealand.

In recent years, as result of poor log prices and improved returns from alternative land uses, new forest planting rates have dropped away significantly. This year it is doubtful whether 10,000 new hectares will be planted.

"The figure of 10 million more trees that NZ First proposes is enough to plant about 13,000 hectares, so it is a step in the right direction, although around 60,000 hectares of new forest would be needed to completely satisfy the country’s greenhouse gas targets.

"What the industry also needs is a market-based mechanism which reflects the value to society of the carbon locked up in private forests. Until this happens, forestry will continue to effectively subsidise those land uses which are net emitters."

Farm Forestry Association president Nick Seymour also sees these initiatives by NZ First and United Future as positive.

"This recognises the contribution to climate change although there are, of course, a range of other environmental benefits that tree planting will deliver," he said.

National has yet to announce its forestry policy for the 2005 election.

[ends]

For more information, please contact:
David Rhodes, chief executive, NZFOA, Tel: 04 473 4769. Mobile: 0274 955 525