Offset scheme will boost investment in eroding lands

Thursday 28 February 2008, 2:37PM
By Flexible Land Use Alliance

The Forestry Offset Scheme, proposed by the Flexible Land Use Alliance today, will see investors buying and foresting some of the more than 800,000 hectares of seriously eroding land found in New Zealand’s high country.

Under the scheme, owners of lands planted in forestry prior to 1 January 1990, who want to convert their land to another use, would be required to find and plant the same area of non-forested land elsewhere in New Zealand, in order to avoid massive liabilities under the Emissions Trading Scheme that could be as high as $65,000 per hectare.

“There is some land in New Zealand that is currently in trees that really shouldn’t be, economically or environmentally,” the Alliance’s spokesman Ross Green said today. “At the same time, there is a huge amount of land – at least 800,000 hectares of seriously eroding hill country land – that isn’t in forestry but really should be. What we are proposing will maintain land use flexibility for individual parcels of land, which is absolutely essential for New Zealand’s economy. But there will be strict rules that say if you convert in one part of the country, you have to invest in new forestry elsewhere, otherwise you will be up for potentially $65,000 a hectare.”

Mr Green said the Alliance had put its ideas to political parties across the political spectrum and was pleased with the response.

“People understand that the Forestry Offset Scheme will help get that eroding land into forestry, which is important in the fight against climate change and will help with erosion and flood prevention, and with enhancing biodiversity and water quality. They also understand that the atmosphere benefits in exactly the same way whether the trees are planted on one side of the road or another.”

Mr Green said the Alliance was confident it would get the Forestry Offset Scheme adopted as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme and that that would be good news for New Zealand, the environment and our economy.

It was not a major step for politicians to accept that reforestation and afforestation had identical climate change benefits and should be treated under a single set of rules with respect to pre-1990 forests, he said.

The Flexible Land Use Alliance, which consists of Blakely Pacific Ltd, Carter Holt Harvey Ltd, Fonterra Co-operate Group Ltd, Forest Enterprises Ltd, Landcorp Farming Ltd, the New Zealand Forest Owners Association Inc., PF Olsen Ltd and Wairakei Pastoral Ltd, was launched in Wellington today.