I absolutely agree with Keith Woodford that current policy on carbon pricing is a mess.
The problem is years of ill-judged, ad hoc policy on the hoof.
We now have a situation where whichever path is taken some objectives will fail.
The Governments and officials of the past and present have signed up to the Paris Agreement that has targets that in our context are challenging.
They want the Emissions Trading Scheme, through carbon pricing, to force change.
A high carbon price also puts great pressure on the economy in general and makes forestry more attractive than sheep and beef.
This is the case with both timber forestry and with permanent carbon forestry.
Some want to suppress forestry altogether but that exposes New Zealand to billions of dollars by purchasing foreign carbon credits and that is triggered by legislation already passed.
Carbon forestry is many times more profitable than traditional agriculture and there surely is a right of ownership to use your own land to do what you want.
Moreover, as the price of carbon keeps going higher and the Government’s cost containment reserve system has had its budgets blown, the price will soon be more than $100/unit and go further still if local carbon restrictions on forestry are imposed.
The Greens and non-farming city interests favour very high carbon prices, even if traditional farming is damaged or destroyed.
Warnings about the importance of agriculture being the life blood of the economy mean nothing to them.
Along comes Forestry Minister Stuart Nash who wants to simply paper over the cracks for another year.
The Government puts up $194,000,000 to create native forests when everybody knows you cannot do this on any scale.
He wants to prevent Māori from making money on their remote land.
The last Government had a billion trees program.
Before this is even completed Nash wants to suppress forestry and stop planting.
Stop, go, lurch one way, lurch another.
Then there is the election, when all parties will say and do anything to temporarily gain votes.
There is a refusal to face reality, a reality of Wellington’s making.
So what can we do?
Well, like it or not somebody is going to get hurt when all ways out are lost.
My view is to try to find a middle ground.
Recognise that we are going to have an increasing carbon price, however painful.
Recognise that we will have to pay through the nose for some credits from overseas sooner or later.
Realise that marginal land will go into forestry and that some, especially the distant, poor quality land, will be in permanent exotic trees.
Encourage native repair, manuka planting and the closing of some areas for natural regeneration and paying for it.
What’s to be done about the huge numbers of pests out there?
Try to get a bipartisan approach that does not flip every couple of years.
Spend the money on research that comes from the cash generated from the cost containment reserve sales of carbon, but know that you will have to buy back foreign carbon to fund it.
Stop different parts of Government pushing contrary policies that both promote and suppress at the same time
Make carbon legislation and policy simpler so that there are more than three people in NZ who understand it.
None of this will reduce the pain but when walking through a self-sown mine field we have to do it.