Lobby group spokesman Andy Scott says : “You can’t eat wood.” PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
Gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

A new environmental lobby group has been launched from Wairarapa calling on the Government to rethink their One Billion Trees programme and its impact on rural communities.

The group, 50 Shades of Green is made up of farmers, businesspeople and supporters who aim to convince politicians and decision-makers that the programme will destroy the provinces and ultimately the New Zealand economy.

Spokesman and Masterton resident Andy Scott said taking whole farms out for trees, often by foreign companies, was a recipe for disaster.

“In Wairarapa there have been seven farms moved from production, in Pongaroa there has been between 6000 and 8000 hectares planted in trees,” he said.

“Taking those farms out of production will devastate local communities with the economic and social cost that will have.”

Scott, a former shearing contractor, is worried about the loss of jobs for shearers, fencers and other contractors.

He was also concerned about the loss of productive land.

“They want to plant 5.4 million hectares into trees, but there are only 5.7 million hectares of productive hill country left.

“Instead of revitalising the provinces the tree planting will destroy them,” he said.

“We’re not talking non-productive or erosion prone parts of a farm, we’re talking entire productive food producing properties. You can’t eat wood.”

He said once the farmland had been planted in forestry, it was difficult to go back.