News and views

ForestX's Comment

With the one billion trees planting programme now in full swing there have been some strong reactions from farmers. We are finally having a full debate in the media on sustainable land use. This is a debate we should have had before the one billion tree programme started. Commentators are focusing on sheep and beef hill country. What is the best use of this finite resource: pasture or trees? Plantation forests have been seen as the only way of making a serious attempt at meeting our Paris agreement climate objectives. Is this true, or are there alternatives? Some see the tree planting strategy accelerating rural depopulation and a move away from food production. If the programme includes a desire to reduce meat production, where are the policies to support farmers, rather than displace them? Where are the policies to develop forest tending and wood processing industries to create jobs and national wealth so planting trees has some economic benefit? The current calls for a slowdown in afforestation are a sensible call for more information and better understanding of the issues and opportunities. The NZ Farm Forestry Association has been around for 63 years and could be encouraged to help. One of its leaders, Graham West, says it’s time for land owner input on an integrated set of government policies that influence land use, both from an environmental and economic perspective.