Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Group targets tree policy

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The Government’s goal of planting a billion trees will destroy the provincial heartland and the New Zealand economy, a new lobby group says.
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The group, 50 Shades of Green, has grown out of concerns held by Wairarapa farmers and businesspeople but spokesman Mike Butterick is confident people from around the country will jump on board.

Productive farmland is at risk from the tree-planting policy, Butterick says.

“It’s essential that as a country we stop and think about the long-term impact that will have.”

Seven Wairarapa farms have been sold in the last few months to be planted in trees with 6000ha to 8000ha in the Pongaroa area alone.

Little thought has been given to how that will change communities in those areas, he says.

“As a country we need to stop and have a conversation about what this policy will do. We need to think about what sort of changes it will cause before it’s too late.

“After all, they once thought possums were a good idea and where did that get us?”

The group is not against policies that address climate change but it is not convinced planting trees for planting’s sake is the solution.

“It’s just a band aid,” Butterick says. 

“We need to put real money and effort into finding real solutions.

“We are not anti trees but we need to think carefully about the type of trees we plant and where we plant them.

“The right trees have to go in the right places.”

Blanket planting will come at a huge environmental cost and pine trees are not always the answer.

“Pine trees are wrong for steep, slippy country. Not only are they never going to be harvested because they are too hard to get to, they are too heavy for that type of land and will cause more damage rather than helping.”

The biggest concern is the loss of farmland.

“That beautiful, productive land should go into trees is crazy. 

“Why do we want to get rid of what our economy is based on?”

Not only will unfettered tree planting slash export earnings it will drive people away from rural communities.

The hill-country farmland most at threat from tree planting supports seven jobs per 1000ha while in pines that will be cut to one.

“Jobs will be lost. Schools will close. The social, economic and environmental consequences of this policy have not been properly considered.

“Our children and grandchildren will not thank us for this.”

The rest of the North Island’s east coast, Taranaki, north and South Canterbury are also at risk, he said.

“It won’t stop here. That’s why we need to get a groundswell of people to get up and do something about it.”

He says politicians and decision makers will be convinced the push to plant a billion trees is misguided only if enough people tell them that.

Wairarapa real estate agent Andy Scott, who is also a member of the group, says while rural people will understand the importance of the issue it is essential the rest of NZ understands the seriousness of the problem.

“We need to educate urban society so that they know there is no science behind this policy. Pine trees are not great sequesters of carbon.”

The group aims to use the select committee process to lobby for changes to the Zero Carbon Bill. It also plans to march on Parliament in July but Scott says people need to show their support now.

“We’ve got to try and nip this in the bud before it’s too late.”

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