Source: Fish and Game NZ
Fish & Game is alarmed at a recently released report which shows the pace and extent of farmland being converted to forestry in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Chief executive Corina Jordan says the scale of the land-use change, which is having a massive impact on rural communities, also has negative implications for recreational access and freshwater health.
The Beef & Lamb NZ (BLNZ) report details how vast tracts of farmland are being sold to carbon farming speculators, with a significant amount being bought up by offshore interests.
“Much of the land is going into permanent forestry for carbon sequestering, and this is destroying many rural communities through lost industry and jobs, and rural services and support disappearing. It is creating ghost towns,” says Jordan.
“Our anglers and hunters, and the general public, have long relied on the generosity and goodwill of the farmers who allow access to their properties to hunt, fish, swim or recreate. And many farmers are also keen anglers and hunters themselves.
“The rural hospitality they offer is part of the social fabric and culture of our country, but the amount of land we’re losing, and the rate at which it is disappearing into foreign ownership, is a real threat to that.”
Fish & Game, along with environmental NGOs, is also increasingly concerned about the impact of mass monoculture forest plantings on the environment.
“We absolutely agree there’s an urgent need to address the climate crisis, but BLNZ’s report shows the farm to forest conversion rate is far in excess of the recommendations put forward by the Climate Change Commission for the country to reach its emissions reduction targets.
“What’s more, pines take up a huge amount of water, thereby leading to less flowing into streams, rivers, and wetlands. Couple this with the acidic leachate that comes off land under exotic conifers, and an increase in some pollutants, and you’ve got catastrophic impacts on instream biology and the health of our freshwater.”
Fish & Game believes government policy should actively encourage additional planting and the integration of trees – particularly natives – on farms, rather than pave the way for entire farms to be sold for conversion into exotic forestry.
“If the scale of forest carbon sinks on farms could be achieved to meet our climate change targets, then there are environmental benefits for biodiversity and freshwater health, whilst also keeping the social fabric of rural communities intact – a win all round.”
Meanwhile, with the carbon price forecast to continue to rise, more land purchases from international speculators will continue if the loopholes in our Emissions Trading Scheme and climate change policy are left unaddressed.
“A consortium of green groups recently called on the government to urgently rethink policy that is paving the way for this proliferation of exotic forests. Similarly, Fish & Game supports changes that lead to better environmental and social outcomes.
“Permanent plantation forestry has a place in helping meet New Zealand’s climate change commitments,” says Jordan. “However, more value needs to be placed on integrating indigenous trees on farm and allowing less productive parts of farms to regenerate.”
WHAT IS FISH & GAME?
Fish & Game NZ manages trout, salmon and game birds to provide healthy recreation and free range food for Kiwis. We work to protect the environment that anglers and hunters have enjoyed as a tradition for over 150 years.