Forestry offset scheme could address Ngai Tahu concerns

Tuesday 2 September 2008, 6:53PM
By Flexible Land Use Alliance

The Flexible Land Use Alliance says that including a Forestry Offset Scheme in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) legislation could significantly address Te Rknanga o Ngi Tahu’s concerns about the impact of the scheme on its land values and avoid the unravelling of its 1998 Treaty settlement.

Ngi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon announced this morning that the Iwi had filed a new claim with the Waitangi Tribunal designed to protect the value of its 1998 settlement from the effects of the ETS. Former Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Sir Douglas Graham has said the claim has merit.

A spokesman for the Flexible Land Use Alliance, Ross Green, said all owners of land planted with pre-1990 forests are seriously affected by the same land devaluation.

“Owners of land planted with pre-1990 forests face retrospective costs that could be as high as $65,000 per hectare if the land is harvested and if the exact same land is not replanted,” he said.

“Even the threat of the ETS has massively devalued such lands, including those returned to Ngi Tahu as part of the 1998 settlement, and land values will fall even more the moment the ETS is passed.”

But Mr Green said that by including a Forestry Offset Scheme in the ETS, Parliament could significantly reduce the level of compensation needed under the ETS while encouraging the planting of approximately 600,000 to 800,000 hectares of eroding hill country land that is currently not in forestry but for which forestry would be the best land use, especially when all environmental factors, including greenhouse gases, erosion and flood prevention, biodiversity and water quality, are all factored in.

Under a Forestry Offset Scheme, pre-1990 forest owners harvesting their land would be able to meet their liabilities under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) either by replanting the exact same land – as is allowed for under the original draft of the Bill – or by planting an equivalent area of land elsewhere in New Zealand that is not currently in forestry. Either replanting strategy would have identical positive benefits for the atmosphere.

The National Party has promised the Flexible Land Use Alliance that it will introduce a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) to give effect to a carbon-neutral Forestry Offset Scheme, and the concept has also had support in principle from the Maori, Green, United Future, New Zealand First and ACT parties.

“Such an amendment to the forestry provisions of the ETS would:

restore confidence in the one industry capable of sequestering carbon;
maintain the principle of land use flexibility that has been the backbone of the New Zealand economy for more than 100 years;
protect land values; and
prevent the unravelling of a historic New Zealand Treaty settlement,” Mr Green said.