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Butterick wants forestation of farms halted

Kieran McAnulty, Sean Plunket, Ron Mark, Mike Butterick at the Federated Farmers Wairarapa/Business Wairarapa ‘meet the candidates’ event. PHOTO/FILE

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National Party Wairarapa candidate Mike Butterick says research by Beef and Lamb NZ about on-farm carbon sinks strengthens the case to slow down “excessive afforestation [tree planting] on prime Wairarapa farmland”.

The study by Dr Bradley Case from Auckland University of Technology estimated woody vegetation on New Zealand sheep and beef farms was offsetting from 63 per cent to 118 per cent of on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range is used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms is absorbing about 90 per cent of these emissions.

Butterick is calling for the formal recognition of on-farm sequestration [capture and removal of carbon in the atmosphere].

BLNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production had reduced by 30 per cent since 1990.

“This research shows that, of the remaining emissions, the vast majority are being offset by the trees on our farms and New Zealand sheep and beef farmers are well on their way to being carbon neutral by 2050,” McIvor said.

“If farmers are to face a price for agricultural emissions, it’s only fair they get credit for their sequestration,” he said.

Butterick said what Labour proposed was a “perfect storm of rising carbon prices and loosening of the Overseas Investment Act”.

“The Government’s billion trees target has led to this and there needs to be a serious re-think to the approach,” Butterick said.

Labour Party policy announced during the election campaign revises the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to require forestry blocks larger than 50 hectares on ‘elite soils’ in Land Use Capability [LUC] Classes 1-5, to get a resource consent.

But Butterick said this policy would not apply on many productive Wairarapa farms that were Class 6 or higher.

“Meanwhile the perverse incentives for planting pines still exist and carbon prices continue to rise.”

Butterick said National would review the treatment of forestry in the Emission Trading Scheme in its first term.

But McAnulty has fired back saying National aren’t being upfront about the issue of farm forestation.

“Labour’s plan, which I wrote, is the only practical and realistic way to address this issue. It has the full backing of every council in our region.”

“The billion trees programme is not a contributing factor to full farm conversions to forestry.

“Yet, National are highlighting scrapping the programme as a solution to the issue. It is all very shoddy,” McAnulty said.

“It is possible to meet our climate change targets and preserve our most productive farmland. National need to stop playing politics and front up on an issue that is of concern in our region. They should back our plan so everyone can move forward together.”

NZ First Wairarapa candidate Ron Mark said that National do back the Emissions Trading Scheme and a National government cemented New Zealand and New Zealand farmers into the ETS despite the fact that two of the world’s largest emitters China and the US were not part of the deal.

“It’s interesting on the eve of an election to have National promising as a voting incentive that they are going to fix the problem they created,” Mark said.

NZ First established the Independent Climate Change Commission with the Labour-led government.

“But we recognise that, as the nation leans more and more on the primary sector to pull us out of the covid-19 recession, we are going to have to adjust the means and the timelines in the quest for carbon neutrality agreed by National in Paris,” he said.

“NZ First has been a moderator during this term of government, and Overseas Investment Approvals are considerably down on what they were under both National and Labour when foreign superannuation companies bought up swaths of New Zealand land and planted it in forestry.”

  • The research report can be found at: www.beeflambnz.com/net-carbon-report.

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