Forest owners thrilled with Maori Party; support Waitangi claim

22 Mar 2007

Forest owners are thrilled to have full Maori Party support for their six-point Kyoto plan, which would see forest owners being paid for the carbon their growing trees remove from the atmosphere.

NZFOA president Peter Berg says his Association also supports the decision by the Federation of Maori Authorities to take the government to the Waitangi Tribunal for its proposals to confiscate carbon credits and to impose retrospective taxes for converting forest land to other uses.

"The impact of the government's climate change policies fall very heavily on Maori land owners, especially on iwi. Their cultural ties mean they cannot sell their land, yet the government's policies will prevent them from developing it so that it gives the greatest benefit to their people," he says.

"Maori make up at least 25 per cent of the forestry workforce and iwi are significant and valued players in the industry. Their contribution is likely to become even larger as a result of Treaty settlements and further iwi investments".

Mr Berg says the forest industry now has full or substantial support for its six-point plan from the Greens, National, the Maori Party and ACT.

"Clearly, these parties see the government's proposed policies as unfair and for this reason, ultimately unworkable," he says.

"Ordinary New Zealanders understand that more trees are needed to combat climate change and to provide other environmental and economic benefits. They cannot believe a government would try to prevent the people who grow these trees from being paid for services provided.

"The carbon storage the government is grabbing wouldn't exist if companies, iwi and Mum and Dad investors hadn't put their money on the line."

He says it is very sad that so much dissent and discord has emerged over the government's climate change policies.

"Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, but the government has come up with policies which penalise the good guys and let the emitters get off Scot-free," he says.

"For climate change policies to work they must be fair, easy-to-understand and transparent. They should encourage land owners to plant new production forests, and give major emitters the incentive to reduce emissions or to offset them with forest planting."

Mr Berg said he was thrilled that the Maori Party had decided to endorse the industry's six-point plan.

"We are now only waiting for New Zealand First to declare its hand. However, the party's principled stance on behalf of Mum & Dad investors and support for commonsense policies gives us every reason to hope that they will support our six-point plan, he says.

"With United Future the only party endorsing the policies of the Labour-Progressive Government, we have every reason to expect that the majority in parliament will be in favour of a major change in the government's land-use climate change policies."

The New Zealand Forestry Industry's Six-Point Plan:

1. Remove the inequitable, retrospective ‘deforestation cap ’.

2. Allow land owners with Kyoto-qualifying forests (forests planted from 1990) — as well as those replanting non-Kyoto forests after harvest — to financially benefit from the value of the carbon their forests remove from the atmosphere.

3. Introduce broad-based carbon charges, ensuring that all emitters of greenhouse gases face the same opportunity costs.

4. Ensure that New Zealand's Kyoto policies have the best long-term outcomes for New Zealand, even if they don't exactly mirror current Kyoto rules.

5. Develop a regime which puts a value on the environmental attributes of forestry, thereby encouraging investment in the sector.

6. Act immediately.