Sheep and Beef farmers are increasingly concerned at the potential for productive food producing land being lost to forestry

Sheep and Beef farmers are increasingly concerned at the potential for productive food producing land being lost to forestry

When looking at recent real estate data, despite a lot of media coverage, the supposed increase in farm sales to be converted into forestry didn’t appear to be reflected in the numbers.

However, more recent information has provided a lot more flesh to what farmers have been saying is happening.

The drive to put more land into forestry is directly related to the governments aim to plant 1 billion trees by 2028 to aid in the longer-term goal of lower net carbon emissions. With the price of carbon in the Emissions Trading Scheme sitting around $25 a tonne (actually, surprisingly has dropped below $24 in the last day or so) investors no doubt can see a profitable return from carbon along with the timber harvested if they get the timing right.

Tree establishment grants ranging from $1,000 per ha for native bush reversion up to $6,500 per ha for plantation forestry have driven the price for potential forestry type land from $6,487 per ha to $9,394 per ha, a 45% increase over the last year.

The bulk of the land sales have occurred in the North Island due to land availability. Criticism has been aimed at the government and the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) for allowing foreign investors in and letting too much productive land be lost to farming and end up in trees. Based on previous experience rural communities know there will be a loss of jobs and a general depopulation.

While Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage has played down the influence of foreign buyers in recent times, there have been eight forestry-based sales approved and another 19 are in the pipeline.

Unlike other land sales when it comes to forestry the OIO requires not only no proof of a positive influence and also does not have to consider any negative effects. To meet the country’s 2030 carbon reductions an estimated further 500,000 ha of land needs to go into trees.

Compounding the issue about where these plantings need to be there are restrictions in place which prevent much of the South Island being utilised. Much of the east coast and parts of dryland Otago have rules which prevent plantation planting due to competition for water.

Ironically up to 7% of the North Island is also unsuitable for harvestable plantation forestry due to the state of erosion being too severe.

50 Shades of Green, a nationwide pressure group, have been calling on the government to take a pause in the planting programme as they fear the 1 billion trees programme is showing that there are too many negative irreversible outcomes for which there needs to be a discussion around before the programme progresses too far.

To date they have said that approximately 26,000 ha has been sold to be converted in forestry on the North Island  east cost for a loss of around 300,000 sheep equivalents. If the 500,000 ha required to meet the 2030 carbon requirements is correct and comes from similar country then there will be a reduction of up to 5-6 million sheep equivalents. This reduction is going to result in the loss of far more jobs than forestry will ever be able to replace, and it will be throughout all communities not just the rural rector.

The Paris Agreement had as its main goal to reduce global warming, however, it also questioned how it would feed a growing (world) population. New Zealand as the most efficient producer of animal proteins is likely to incentivise other less efficient countries to pick up the market opportunities and at the same time see global emissions increase and from animals fed crops that would be better off feeding people.

One of the ultimate ironies the Zero Carbon Act has is the fact that overseas investors are able to purchase land here, plant trees and receive ETS credits for offsetting Carbon emissions, including methane and yet the farmers who may have sold them the land cannot.

Overseas investors who convert whole farms are not meant to receive planting subsidies however, it seems unclear what “whole farms” means as in a recent case a 1,727ha Wairarapa farm was sold to Austrian interests of which three house and some flat land will be sold off and there will be a 1,280ha forest left to be harvested in 2045-47. Presumably this still counts as a “whole farm”.

At the moment it certainly appears that it is the rural sector that is to carry the hopes of the government's Zero Carbon Plan. Overseas it seems the reverse is the case.

Ireland, a country often compared as the Northern Hemisphere's closest example to New Zealand in many aspects has just announced it will ban petrol and diesel cars in 2030. This is the tenth country to announce such plans with even India having the same policy. I do wonder how New Zealand’s general populous would react to such an announcement. I did notice the first advertisement I can recall seeing for an electric car on T.V. recently - although the 63 km range limit didn’t inspire a great desire to purchase.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Banning "petrol and diesel cars in 2030" is a nice sound-bite, but we'll mostly be driving double-cab work utes - which aren't cars - if that is enacted, as well as tiny EV's, scooters and e-bikes for urban use. Descriptions matter, as do Incentives. And Disincentives. Because tradies, anyone who needs to tow something, farmers and the like, have zero choice in practical EV's that can manage a 3.5 tonne braked trailer for a 400km round trip, in the foreseeable future.

Tesla’s range from 240 to 370 miles in range and here is a video of a Tesla towing a plane if you are worried about their towing capacity. https://youtu.be/UzLGrGRnP28

There is a Tesla truck coming out in the next few years which presumably will be aimed at tradies.

There are a lot of myths about the performance of electric vehicles which just aren’t borne out by the reality.

Tesla Trucks run into the energy-density barrier....and aren't there - more timelines dragged.

Of course electric anything is a great propulsion system - locos, draglines and other big iron routinely use multi-thousand-horsepower motors. But those either have ff power sources (DE locos), extensive distribution (overhead catenary or third rail) or big extension cords (those draglines). Effective commercial use for long-haul (intercity by road), farm (everything from tractors to harvesters), and long-haul high-pax air are all just vapourware for at least a couple of decades.

If we are talking heavy freight, then granted there may be challenges. But first of all, how much of our transport emissions are heavy long distance freight? I’m guessing not many versus short haul and commuter transportation. Second, there are some other options for long haul like the swappable battery. And we of course haven’t tapped the full potential of batteries in terms of density and charging. Tesla just significantly increased their charge speed and I’m sure there are many innovations to come over the next 11 years.

You have to remember the 2030-2040 dates in many countries are for the end of sales of new ICEs, not the end of ICEs all together. It may take another 15-20 years for the vehicle fleet to age to the point all ICEs are retired.

Agreed on all points. But we are in the Cambrian Explosion phase of EV evolution - many configurations, yet to be weeded out by the Darwinian interactions between manufacturers, regulators, and consumers, all this over hundreds of countries. And locked in by some proprietary decisions: a Nissan Leaf handshakes its battery and if the main brain's ID doesn't match Battery ID, it's a Nissan Brick until the dealer arrives with a fix and a sturdy per-hour rate for the application thereof. Consider the current (sorry) issues:

  • Charging plug standardisation - non existent.
  • Charging station power demands (see the re the demands these can place on electric grids).
  • Standardisation of battery shape, pin-outs, electrical configuration, charging interface and the like
  • Leasing and financing arrangements for charging infrastructure

.
I'm sure to have omitted some items - but that is a formidable list that doesn't even touch the EV itself. Long way to go. But we can still pootle round in a tiny EV or convert a Jimny to electric with some LiFePO4 batteries, a modest DC motor and a solid controller. But just around town....

EV's range is increasing by the minute, and we have models on the market with 4oo km range. They will take the place of light trucks - so many less moving parts.

If you want to go fast, http://greenenvyracing.com/

But only in NZ, Iceland, Norway and BC, are electric cars renewably-powered. As for land-use, as I point out often enough, we are using the planet as if there were 10-20 of them (standard footprint measurement fails the oil/solar conversion acreage required). So it's no surprise that cities are crashing into food which is being encroached-upon by forestry. Welcome to the Limits to Growth. More specifically, to exponential growth. Comes on suddenly, it does.

It doesn’t matter where the power comes from. The ICE is only 30% efficient, so it is still greener and more cost efficient (and greener) to burn fossil fuels at a power station, send them down the power lines, and then charge the car, than it is to burn petrol in an engine.

This is what people don’t realise, it’s not just better for the environment to go electric, it’s cheaper fuel wise, cheaper maintenance wise, and when we get economies of scale, the manufacturing cost will be comparable.

"The Paris Agreement had as its main goal to reduce global warming, however, it also questioned how it would feed a growing (world) population. New Zealand as the most efficient producer of animal proteins is likely to incentivise other less efficient countries to pick up the market opportunities and at the same time see global emissions increase and from animals fed crops that would be better off feeding people".

Guy, google Pundit Raworth then look for my comments. The better way is condoms, and sans fossil energy the current ag model is toast. What you've done is mount a straw-man argument which reinforces your POV. Come on, eh? My question to you is: Can we indeed feed New Zealand, post fossil fuels? For how long, in the absence of ff-based fertiliser? And do you reall think the global trading/payment system survives de-growth of energy, intact?

Guy, it's been an Interesting diversion into ICE and EV in the thread, but what's your take on KW's characterisation of Forestry as a Carbon Credit Mine (and that just for the first rotation)? Perverse Incentive or what?

If we have a environment emergency. Best thing to do was tell all tourists to stay where they are. It's all a big joke how some people get worked up about living in the real world

There is an immense irony in planting a squillion trees and at the same time encouraging as many people as possible to come to our little islands from all over the planet in ... a plane.

Only domestic aviation emissions are captured by the ETS, international aviation emissions have a free ride. NZ's international aviation emissions have almost doubled since 1994. All of this leaves agriculture carrying the can for methane emissions which cannot be offset while the inbound tourism industry has business as usual.

Missed opportunity all plantations qualifying for Tax dollar support should also have jobs attached even if they don't need jobs. All trees need to be proceed here before export.

Should never cut down all the native bush in the first place. Imagine a whole lot more huge Kauri trees. Funny how life is full of circles, now we are finally going back to trees.

Just because they are planting doesn’t mean they get a grant. They are not I can assure you. Over 50% plus of farmers earn a zero or less return (beef and lamb, ANZ) talking to top farmers and Agri consultants it’s closer to 70%. Agri profitability is the problem and this isn’t forestry’s issue. We live in a open market economy. If someone wants to risk there capital and obey the law they are free to do what they wish on land. There is no “right” for farming animals only. Some of these farm groups appear to be wanting a Soviet command economy system. Timber alone beats farming on most hill country. If I was to buy a dairy farm and grow trees so what it was fine to cut down huge areas of forest a few years ago and convert to dairy what’s the difference? By the way some of this is going back to trees what does that tell you!!! Forestry export income is 300% higher per ha than meat and wool exports. Blind devotion to a certain system is slowly sinking many areas of rural N Z