Lake Taupo protection formula could be used more widely

12 Feb 2009

Forest owners have praised the decision of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust to pay a farmer to plant trees on his land in order to reduce the amount of livestock nitrogen entering the lake.

This is thought to be the first example of public body in New Zealand paying a land owner to provide an environmental service to the wider community. The Trust has previously purchased farms in order to convert them to a low nitrogen use.

The 930 hectare farm, which is owned by Boat Harbour Holdings Ltd, will have a legal covenant placed on its title to ensure that the nitrogen reduction is maintained in perpetuity.

NZ Forest Owners Association president Peter Berg says this provides a solution for other parts of the Waikato catchment -- and indeed elsewhere in New Zealand -- where land owners are being asked to plant or maintain forests that provide an environmental service to the wider community.

"In this case, the land owner is foregoing a more profitable land-use in order to help reduce the nutrient loading on Lake Taupo. Other examples include planting or retaining forests to reduce peak river flood flows, or to reduce erosion in steep hill country,” he says.

"There are many farms and areas on farms where forestry is not the most economic use of the land, but where -- from the perspective of the wider community, or for land owners on flood-prone flats downstream -- trees would be the best option.

"In these cases, those who benefit from the environmental service should be contributing to the costs of planting and maintaining the land in forestry.

"This is far fairer than the present situation, where local bodies and regional councils can use regulations to force farmers and forest owners into planting or retaining environmental forests. This sort of regulatory approach can create ill will, discriminates against those who provide an environmental service that benefits others and is contrary to the principles of the Resource Management Act."

For more information, please ring Peter Berg, 021 421 291