Hodgson mischievous say forest owners

13 Jun 2005

Climate change minister Pete Hodgson is being mischievous in his defence of his Government's disastrous climate change policies, says the Forest Owners Association.

"As the minister knows, his policies are triggering deforestation at unprecedented rates across the country. Trees are being sprayed with herbicide, cut to waste and converted to dairy farming at a huge cost to the environment," says association president Peter Berg.

"This is largely due to the liability forest owners potentially face if, after harvest, they don't replant forests originally planted before 1990. This could be as high as $25,000 a hectare."

The association acknowledges the government has assumed some responsibility for this liability, but the sum allowed for is clearly inadequate, he says.

"As a result, any forest owner who wishes to convert land out of trees and into something else has to do it before 2008. Even the government is doing it, with the conversion by Landcorp of 25,000 hectares of forest into dairy farms in the central North Island.

"For a government which claims to be committed to the environment, this is a terribly cynical policy."

Mr Berg says the environmental impact of dairy conversions in the Waikato River catchment was only recently being bemoaned by Environment Waikato.

"They estimated the affect from one 26,000 ha forestry conversion to dairy on the surrounding waterways would be an additional 426 tonnes of nitrogen, and 34 tonnes of phosphate being lost to ground and surface water each year. In addition, there would be a large increase in the silt and pathogen loading of the river."

He says the association is not opposed to land being used for the most economic purpose.

"But because forestry will be sheltering other land users from the consequences of their greenhouse gas emissions, it is being put at a economic disadvantage.

"As a result, land which would be better left in trees, or converted to forestry, is likely to end up in livestock. And taxpayers will pay the price, when the country is penalised for its increased greenhouse gas emissions."

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For more information, please contact Peter Berg, tel 021 421 291