National Party support for forestry offsetting gives overwhelming parliamentary majority for scheme

Monday 17 March 2008, 4:19PM
By Flexible Land Use Alliance

The National Party’s announcement today that it will pursue a Forestry Offset Scheme through the parliamentary process means there is now an overwhelming majority for the measure on both the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee and in Parliament as a whole, the Flexible Land Use Alliance said today.

The Flexible Land Use Alliance, which consists of Blakely Pacific Ltd, Carter Holt Harvey Ltd, Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, Forest Enterprises Ltd, Landcorp Farming Ltd, the New Zealand Forest Owners Association Inc., PF Olsen Ltd and Wairakei Pastoral Ltd, is seeking a Forestry Offset Scheme as part of a full compensation package for pre-1990 forest owners if it is decided that pre-1990 forests will be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Under a Forestry Offset Scheme, landowners would be able to avoid the proposed deforestation liability of up to $65,000 per hectare either by replanting the exact same land – as allowed under the Government’s current proposals – or by planting an equivalent area of land elsewhere in New Zealand that is not currently in forestry.

The introduction of such a scheme would significantly reduce the amount the Government would otherwise have to meet if it were to provide full compensation for the loss of land value caused by the inclusion of pre-1990 forests in the ETS, estimated to be in the vicinity of $4 billion.

National’s Climate Change Spokesman, Nick Smith, told the new Carbon News website that the Flexible Land Use Alliance had put up a good case for offsetting and that National would be pursuing it when the Climate Change (Emissions Trading & Renewable Preference) Bill is considered by the select committee and parliament.

The new website also confirmed that the Government believes that the current rules for forestry under the Kyoto Protocol are flawed and is working hard to promote offsetting at an international level.

The Flexible Land Use Alliance’s spokesman, Ross Green, said that, with National’s four votes on the Select Committee, eight out of its 13 members were from parties which had publicly given their support to a Forestry Offset Scheme. A total of 66 MPs in Parliament as a whole are from parties which have publicly supported a Forestry Offset Scheme, he said.

“Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, UnitedFuture Party Leader Peter Dunne, New Zealand First Agriculture & Forestry Spokesman Doug Woolerton, and ACT Leader Rodney Hide have all joined with the Flexible Land Use Alliance and Dr Smith in making public statements in favour of an offset scheme, while independent MP Gordon Copeland has also written to us with his support,” Mr Green said.

“In addition, we are hopeful of Maori Party support.

“With overwhelming majority support on the Select Committee and in Parliament – and with confirmation the Government also supports the principle of offsetting at an international level – we look forward to working with all political parties, government officials and Forestry Minister Jim Anderton to develop the details of a fair and workable Forestry Offset Scheme between now and 10 June when the Select Committee plans to report back to Parliament.”

Mr Green noted that even the combination of offsetting and the 5 percent deforestation allowance that the Government has proposed would still leave forest owners facing significant land value losses. The two measures alone would not be sufficient to fairly recompense them, but were a step in the right direction, he said.

Mr Green also noted with regret that Dr Smith had announced that National would no longer support the exclusion of pre-1990 forestry from the ETS.

“This is a 180-degree U-turn in National’s policy position,” he said. “Last year, National campaigned strongly against the then $13,000 per hectare deforestation tax for pre-1990 forests, now estimated to be up to $65,000 per hectare, and its Bluegreen vision document was absolutely clear that there should be no deforestation cap on pre-1990 forests.

“It seems that National was opposed to a $13,000 per hectare deforestation tax and the inequitable deforestation cap, but that they are comfortable with a deforestation liability of up to $65,000 per hectare. This is illogical.”

Mr Green said the Flexible Land Use Alliance would continue to seek majority support within the National Party caucus for a restatement of its previous position.