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National backs Feds’ carbon farming stance

NATIONAL’S spokeswoman for rural communities Barbara Kuriger is backing calls by Federated Farmers for the Government to deliver on its election promise to protect productive farmland.

However, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the Government was committed “to the right tree in the right place”.

“Officials from Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for the Environment are now working with the industry and wider sector on issues arising from the review of the National Environmental Standard, which has just been published,” he said.

“The review will be considered within the Government’s response to the Climate Change Commission’s upcoming recommendations. It will also be considered alongside the broader work programme on resource management reforms.

“This will help ensure we maintain our ability to meet our climate change and freshwater objectives and maintain productive soils for high value uses.”

Mrs Kuriger said she supported the Federated Farmers view.

“The Feds want a full review of government policies that are leading to the loss of productive farms, export income, employment and the undermining of rural communities,” she said.

“Labour pledged that if re-elected it would take less than six months to stop the rampant spread of large-scale exotic tree planting across the country.

“Feds president Andrew Hoggard is right when he says there are no signs the Government is moving on this. A long-awaited review of the special forestry test for overseas investment also has not got off the ground.

“The Feds are correct, blanket forestry serves no rural community. It shuts them down and creates permanent damage. Minister O’Connor needs to move quickly on these reviews,” Mrs Kuriger said.

“After all, a promise is a promise.”

Speaking to The Herald she said it was an issue that affected Wairoa and Gisborne areas the worst and the damage was already being done.

“I truly believe that is one of the worst-hit areas in the country in terms of erosion but I also think it weakens rural communities because you don’t have the same number of people. But I worry about the amount of trees that can be planted for carbon farming that may not get harvested.”

That would increase the risk of fire, pests and erosion.

“If I come back to a farmers perspective, a farmer has no way to offset other than to make things better on the farm.

“We are really questioning this whole offsetting scenario because if someone else is offsetting and buying a farm next door it is on an unfair playing field, where the overseas investment rules favour these buyers coming in to plant carbon farms. It takes those opportunities away from local farmers.”

That was not fair, she said.

“I do want to state we have no problem with overseas investment and we have no problem with forestry but it is overseas investment for carbon forestry where the OIO rules are skewed.”

Mrs Kuriger said the only people who could level the playing field was the Government.

“But they don’t seem inclined to want to do that even though they had a promise to protect our farmland but they don’t seem to be delivering anything on that.

“We were told they would revise the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry to require forestry blocks intended to be larger than 50 hectares on elite soils.

“That means Land Use Capability Classes 1-5 have to get a resource consent,” Hoggard said earlier this week.

“We have been reading the papers but this hasn’t happened yet. In fact, there are no signs at all that they are seriously moving forward on this.”

“The Feds want a full review of government policies that are leading to the loss of productive farms, export income, employment and the undermining of rural communities,” Barbara Kuriger said.