Key needs to come clean on trees

19 May 2008

Forest owners say National Party leader John Key needs to clarify what will happen to forestry if the legislation on a proposed emission trading scheme gets delayed until 2009.

In the weekend Mr Key said National would not support the emission Bill in parliament unless it met six key principles. This, he said, would be a small price to pay for New Zealand getting the best ETS possible.

NZ Forest Owners Association president Peter Berg says the proposed scheme has already had a hugely disruptive effect on forestry and a lack of clarity and further legislative delays will not be helpful.

“Forest owners are very unhappy with the Labour Government’s emission trading scheme as it stands,” he says.

“The one industry that actually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere is being forced to meet all the costs of its emissions – real and imaginary – from day one. In contrast, the deadlines for emitting industries are being constantly delayed.”

Mr Berg says National is aware that Labour’s policies are inequitable and distortionary and 12 months ago, in its Blue-Green Vision, promised to do away with the new deforestation tax.

“It is therefore of concern to us that Mr Key does not mention forestry in his six key principles and from statements made earlier this year appears to have backed away from his promise to do away with the new tax,” he says.

Forest owners entered the ETS on 1 January this year – the only sector to do so. However the legislation for the scheme is still with a select committee and with National no longer giving its support, the scheme may not become a legal reality for a year or more.

“The principles that Mr Key has come up with are sound enough, but if putting them in place results in lengthy delays in both legislation and in other industries coming into the scheme, then the 1 January starting date for forestry will become untenable.

“The government’s policies have already created a huge level of doubt and mistrust. No-one is planting the new forests needed if New Zealand is to meet its Kyoto obligations post-2013.

“Our policy has always been all gases, all sectors, at the one time. Ideally we would like to see the scheme implemented before the election, with forestry treated on the same basis as all other industries.

“But if that is not possible, it is crucial that National and the minor parties urgently clarify where they stand.”

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