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Wairoa foresters forced to subsidise local meatworks

15 February 2021

Foresters in the Wairoa District are appalled that a part of their recent rate increase will go to propping up the local meatworks.

Wairoa District Council disclosed at a meeting to discuss a differential rating targeting forestry, that the Council was providing a rebate of $150,000 a year to the Talley’s owned AFFCO works in Wairoa.

The Forest Owners Association President Phil Taylor says foresters are prepared to pay a fair share of the rates, but he says as well as the Council failing to objectively examine the contribution forestry made to the Wairoa economy, the Council was effectively extracting money from forests to give to the local farming industry.

The WDC has imposed a differential rate on forestry to raise an extra $334,000 a year because of what it calls ‘negative wellbeing effects’ from forestry, compared with hill country farming.

Phil Taylor says WDC is not considering any of the evidence of economic, social and environmental contributions from forestry – all of which make for positive well-being effects.

“While the Council says an economic report on Wairoa, written by BakerAg and commissioned by Beef + Lamb in 2019, vindicates the Council backing farming, the report actually stated that, ‘the typical sheep and beef farm was found to be unable to compete with forestry returns over a 60-year period’.”

Phil Taylor says another report, more recently commissioned by MPI and written by PricewaterhouseCoopers, had concluded that forestry’s value chain impact was much higher than that of farming hill country.

“PwC worked out that the value-add by land use from forestry is nearly three times higher than from sheep and beef farming.  The forestry labour force is twice as large.”

“That is a huge difference.  How the WDC can ignore that report I don’t know.  They do have it.  We sent them a copy.”

Phil Taylor also says the evidence on the ground in Wairoa also shows forestry is beneficial for rural communities.

“We’ve had a lot of news stories over the past couple of years about Wairoa farmland being turned into forests and how they are destroying the community.”

“But the Real Estate Institute has just disclosed that house price increases in Wairoa in 2020 were the highest in New Zealand.  The Wairoa Council has disclosed the population in Wairoa is increasing and the value of building consents in 2019 – 2020 was higher than in 2018 – 2019.”

“All the evidence is that forestry is economically, socially and environmentally good for Wairoa and towns like it.”

“Even just considering the effect of forests reducing the flood risk is major.  The Wairoa River has flooded devastatingly a number of times.  The main highway bridge was washed away in Cyclone Bola.  Forests reduce that risk.  The Council seems blind to these benefits.”

“The Council should consider a more equitable road rating formula, based on facts and hard data, rather than relying on ‘anecdotal evidence’ which it admits to following at the moment.”

“The Council has made the inequity worse by exempting farm woodlots.  Farmers won’t have to pay any extra rate for their trees.  The Council thinks the roads the logs will travel on will know the difference.”

“Our industry last year vigorously opposed an attempt by the then Minister of Forests, Shane Jones, to tax forestry to subsidise domestic timber processing.  The Wairoa Council is taxing forestry to subsidise farm processing.  It’s the same old fashioned government interference for which the community ultimately has to pay.”

Phil Taylor says the Wairoa Council is required under the Local Government Act to take into account the diversity of interests in the community.

“Instead, it has just listened to one sector.  We will be taking the matter up with the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta.”

Phil Taylor

‘ph 027 487 6890