Forest industry breaks off government talks

17 Feb 2006

Relations between government officials and forest owners have broken down, New Zealand Forest Owners Association (NZFOA) president Peter Berg said today.

Mr Berg was speaking on behalf of the NZFOA, Kyoto Forestry Association, NZ Farm Forestry Association and the Federation of Maori Authorities, after industry representatives walked out of a meeting with officials on Wednesday.

Forestry is New Zealand's fourth largest export industry, generating more than $3 billion in export receipts and employing more than 20,000 people.

"Last July, we were invited by government to enter a dialogue with them to develop ways to maximise the industry’s contribution to tackling climate change and to address New Zealand's deforestation crisis. We agreed to do so in good faith," Mr Berg said.

"By inviting us to participate, the government was acknowledging that its forestry and climate policies were on the wrong track.

"Indeed, the inequities relating to forestry were highlighted in an official review and acknowledged by the minister of forestry, Jim Anderton, in December."

Mr Berg said major industry players had contributed their time and expertise to the development of credible market-based policy alternatives.

"In good faith we developed an agreed industry position which involved an element of compromise among industry players. The NZ Treasury broadly agreed with such a market-based approach which would deliver the government’s climate change and forestry goals.

"However in a long-awaited meeting on Wednesday, we were simply brushed off by MAF officials. They were unwilling to discuss any specific policy options and — unbelievably — claimed that ‘doing nothing ’ remains an option they would be presenting to government.

"We were therefore left with no choice but to walk out of the meeting and to make today's announcement that we are severing contact with government officials over this issue."

Mr Berg said the inappropriateness of government policy has been confirmed in recent days with the release of MAF data showing that New Zealand's total plantation forest cover has actually fallen for the first time in more than a century.

"Industry associations will now be asking their members to continue the nationwide ban on government climate change officials entering privately owned forests for carbon monitoring purposes and to extend it indefinitely," he said.

"The ban which was announced in June last year, has almost total support from individual forest owners throughout New Zealand. It prevents the government from collecting the data it needs to impose new taxes on the industry.

"It is very disappointing that events have taken this turn. However, no engagement with officials can be considered until the government publicly commits itself to working constructively with the industry.

"Forest owners know the forest industry better than anyone, have significant property rights at stake and are directly affected by inept Kyoto policymaking. With appropriate policies, forest owners can help New Zealand meet its greenhouse gas emission targets, saving taxpayers many hundreds of millions of dollars."

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For more information, please contact:

David Rhodes, chief executive, NZFOA Tel: 04 473 4769. Mobile: 0274 955 525