No new tree planting this parliamentary term

Tuesday 28 July 2009, 9:01AM
By Kyoto Forestry Association

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith is “badly misreading commercial and economic realities” if he thinks the Government’s planned changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will lead to the private sector resuming tree planting, the Kyoto Forestry Association (KFA) said today.

KFA was responding to Dr Smith’s comments on TVNZ’s Q+A programme over the weekend and on Radio New Zealand’ National’s Morning Report yesterday saying New Zealand needed new trees and that he hoped changes to the ETS would restore confidence to the forestry sector.

KFA spokesman Roger Dickie said Dr Smith was right in saying that only the efforts of Kyoto forest owners in the 1990s in planting around 50,000 hectares of new forests a year are keeping New Zealand’s Kyoto account in balance “but sadly he is incorrect if he thinks the Government’s plans to water down the ETS are going to encourage new planting”.

Mr Dickie said KFA understood the Government plans to further delay the entry of polluting sectors into the ETS, increase their compensation and exclude agriculture.

“This means forest owners will have no one domestically to sell our credits to, and so the domestic price for carbon will remain low, which will not encourage investors to plant new trees.

“There has also been discussion around the likelihood the Government plans to put a cap on the price of carbon, which would prevent international trading of New Zealand Units (NZUs). Our carbon credits will therefore have no significant value. No private-sector investor will risk their capital to plant new forests under these circumstances.”

Mr Dickie said Kyoto forest owners had mostly welcomed last year’s change of government, including the National Party’s manifesto promise to encourage the planting of 600,000 to 800,000 hectares of hill country land that is prone to erosion and is not currently forested (see ).

“Unfortunately, we have seen nothing from the new Government so far that gives us any confidence that promise will be delivered,” Mr Dickie said. “To the contrary, we doubt there will be any new planting this year, and very little in the next two years – the whole of the first term of the new Government.”
KFA represents the more than 30,000 ordinary New Zealanders and forestry companies who risked as much as $175 million per annum of their own capital to invest in more than 250,000 hectares of new forestry in the 1990s, both because of the benefits predicted to arise from the sale of wood products and for the carbon credits earned from carbon sequestration. These carbon credits, worth some hundreds of millions of dollars, were confiscated by the previous Labour Government but later returned following a high-profile campaign by KFA.