Land use op­tions con­strained on East Coast

New Zealand Logger - - Forest Talk -

FORESTRY HAS ITS HANDS TIED WHEN CON­SID­ER­ING WHAT TO DO AF­TER har­vest­ing plan­ta­tion forests grow­ing on the most vul­ner­a­ble hills on the East Coast and else­where in New Zealand.

Re­plac­ing plan­ta­tion forests with na­tives or switch­ing to Mānuka for honey pro­duc­tion might sound like good al­ter­na­tives but strict reg­u­la­tions, con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions and ETS con­se­quences may stand in the way.

Ac­cord­ing to Peter Weir, Pres­i­dent of the For­est Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion: “We have some con­straints at the mo­ment. We can’t sim­ply walk away from the land and aban­don it be­cause that would trig­ger huge de­for­esta­tion li­a­bil­i­ties un­der the emis­sions trad­ing scheme.”

He says there is a har­vest­ing con­di­tion in the re­source con­sent ob­tained from Gis­borne Dis­trict Coun­cil that re­quires for­est own­ers to re­plant in conifers at least one thou­sand stems per hectare.

Also, re­plant­ing the now Red Zoned land is re­quired un­der an en­tirely sep­a­rate con­trac­tual un­der­tak­ing, dat­ing back to an ero­sion con­trol forestry scheme de­vised by the gov­ern­ment af­ter Cy­clone Bola in 1989. Mr Weir says re­plant­ing in the same crop is a con­di­tion of early vari­ants of the East Coast Forestry Grants that es­tab­lished many Ra­di­ata Pine plan­ta­tions on the re­gion’s highly erodi­ble land af­ter Bola. Those forests are now among blocks where har­vest­ing has been tak­ing place over the past five years.

Re-plant­ing in na­tive trees in­clud­ing Mānuka is not pos­si­ble un­der these early con­tracts and con­ver­sion back to beef graz­ing would trig­ger a very large de­for­esta­tion penalty un­der the ETS scheme. Also, it would see re­duced longterm wood sup­ply for wood pro­ces­sors and job losses in har­vest­ing crews and log haulage. Land val­ues would be af­fected – a crit­i­cal point, as Māori are sig­nif­i­cant land own­ers on the East Coast.

Mr Weir says: “I can’t see large own­ers walking away from their in­vest­ments in land and in­fra­struc­ture or their long-term com­mit­ment to the re­gion and its work­ers, but in­vestors in small syn­di­cated own­er­ship might take fright. There might be a change in sil­vi­cul­ture but Ra­di­ata is hard to beat in many si­t­u­a­tions. Jobs are se­cure and the fu­ture re­mains bright.”


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