The Kyoto Forestry Association (KFA) is seeking assurances from the Labour and National parties that their 2007 promises to post-1989 forest owners, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, can continue to be relied upon.
KFA spokesman Roger Dickie said post-1989 forest owners are becoming concerned by the lack of information on the matter as political parties hold secret talks on the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill.
In 2006/7, KFA ran a high-profile campaign for the post-1989 carbon credits to be returned to their rightful owners, the mum and dad investors who risked their savings to plant trees since 1 January 1990.
This led, on 9 March 2007, to National Party Leader John Key announcing his party’s policy that “forest owners should get a proportion of the carbon credits they have accrued since 1990, and which the government has so far refused to pay them”.
Mr Key was followed, on 20 September 2007, by Forestry Minister Jim Anderton announcing on behalf of the Labour-led Government: “From next year, owners of forests planted after 1989 will be eligible for 100 per cent of the carbon credits and liabilities generated under the Emissions Trading Scheme. This is a world first. Depending on the price of carbon, this is likely to be worth at least several hundred million dollars to the forestry sector.”
The Government’s announcement led to KFA suspending its campaign for the credits, including taking down its “Labour’s Forestry Policy” billboards at Auckland and Wellington international airports and putting them in storage.
“We understand and accept that the negotiations on the climate change legislation are difficult, that they involve a very wide range of issues beyond just post-1989 forestry and that there may need to be changes to how the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is implemented in order for the Bill to achieve sufficient parliamentary support to pass,” Mr Dickie said.
“Nevertheless, we have written to Climate Change Minister David Parker and Shadow Climate Change Minister Nick Smith seeking assurances that, at the very least, post-1989 forest owners can rely on the value that was promised to them by the Government in September 2007 being delivered to them in the near future.
“Already we are concerned that the value promised to us is being eroded as a result of the decision to delay bringing transport into the ETS. We are not prepared to see the value promised to us being any further eroded through the current negotiations.
“If the Government cannot deliver that value to post-1989 forest owners through the speedy passage of the ETS legislation, then we will want to talk to Ministers about other ways the promised value can be delivered to our members.
“In the meantime foresters and investors will not begin new plantings of forests while future policy is undecided. We anticipate that new plantings in 2008 will be the lowest on record for New Zealand.”