Water policy will mean fewer trees

24 July 2008

If the government’s proposed new water policy goes ahead in its present from, it is likely to result in fewer new forests being planted.

NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says his members have long supported the development of a National Policy Statement (NPS) that would bind all regional councils to a standard set of rules to ensure there is an adequate supply of clean water in lakes, steams and other waterways.

“Unfortunately, the draft statement released yesterday turns the polluter-pays principle on its head by focusing only on land development, as distinct from land use.

“Many existing land uses are unsustainable in terms of pollution and inefficient use of water. To be logical and fair to all, these existing uses must be required to meet the same standards as those who are developing land. Otherwise the policy won’t work.”

Mr Rhodes says the policy statement needs to be consistent with the approach proposed under the water programme of action that MAF and primary sector industries have been working on for several years.

“Unless it is changed, it will inevitably freeze good and bad land use practices and patterns for 20 years, while polluters very gradually clean up their act. In effect, privately-owned forests will be treated as a public utility used to offset unsustainable activities by others,” he says.

“This will act against new forest planting despite the huge potential forests have to improve water quality.

“Forestry is an investment with many unknowns between planting and harvesting. If governments and regional councils feel they have the right to lock land in or out of forestry for the benefit of other private land users, it creates an unacceptable level of risk.”

If land users are going to have the confidence to plant the many thousands of hectares New Zealand desperately needs, Mr Rhodes says all land uses need to be treated the same.

He says the focus of the NPS should be on fostering optimal land use on a catchment by catchment basis.

“If land is environmentally capable of sustaining high intensity dairying, this should be welcomed, because of the benefits it brings to the economy. In the same way, every encouragement should be given to establishing trees on erosion-prone marginal hill country, because of the benefits it will bring for the environment. A number of regional councils are actively trying to achieve this mosaic of land uses, using sustainability as their criteria as they should under the Resource Management Act.

“The polluter-pays principle requires every land user to mitigate the adverse effects of their activities on the environment.

“If this doesn’t happen and we continue to have desirable land uses being used to offset the effects of undesirable activities there will be perverse outcomes. This applies both within an industry, as well as between industries.”

For more information, please contact David Rhodes, Tel 0274 955 525