Taupo plan unfairly rewards emitters

21 Mar 2007

Forest owners say the Environment Waikato plan for reducing nitrogen emissions into Lake Taupo rewards polluters. In a joint statement, the NZ Forest Owners Association and the Federation of Maori Authorities say rights to use the ‘assimilative capacity of the environment ’ should be shared fairly among all land owners.

"The proposed scheme gives intensive farmers the right to continue to pollute at their current levels, subject to some controls, while minor emitters like dry stock farmers and non-polluters like foresters will be locked into existing land uses in perpetuity," says NZFOA president Peter Berg.

"The lake needs to be protected and net emissions need to be reduced, but this should be done fairly. As it stands, dairy farmers who have developed every last square metre of their land will have the full range of land use options available to them.

"They will have a right to continue intensive dairy farming, to plant forests and crops, or to sell their land for lifestyle blocks or other developments. If they choose to change to a less polluting activity they will be paid for the change, perhaps from the $83 million government has provided, or by selling "pollution rights" to another land owner.

"Other land owners particularly foresters, whose activities don't pollute now have no options other than to continue in trees regardless of the return, or pay the dairy farmer next door for some of his windfall pollution rights."

Paul Morgan, chief executive of the Federation of Maori Authorities, says the Environment Waikato plan will have its greatest impact on Maori, who own the majority of forested and undeveloped land around the lake.

"There is, or was before this decision, potential for further development of Maori land in the catchment for the benefit of the owners. Under the new rules, low-emission developments like tourism and outdoor adventure facilities cannot be built on land which is now undeveloped or in forestry unless Maori can afford to buy some rights from existing polluters.

"Maori put a high value on their cultural role as guardians of the lake. We are not seeking the right to exacerbate the nitrate problem nor to exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment," he said.

"But everyone should be treated equitably - there is something wrong when Maori cannot build a low emission development when other land users are allowed to continue high emission activities."

Mr Morgan says the allocation of a sustainable level of tradable nitrate emission rights to all land owners would encourage best emission reduction practices. It would encourage optimum use of land within environmental limits and it would motivate current nitrate emitters to adopt practices that reduced the environmental effects of their activities.

The NZFOA and FOMA say an Environment Court appeal is unavoidable to assure equity and fairness among land users. "It is necessary to ensure sustainable management of the environment, which after all is the purpose of the RMA!"

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for more information, please contact Peter Berg, Tel 09 421 921 or 021 421 291, or Paul Morgan Tel 04 474 1480 or 021 740 626