sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

In my last article on forestry, a little over two months ago, I ended by saying that “there is a need for an informed and wide-ranging debate as we search for the path that will lead to the right trees in the right place, planted and owned by the right people”. Here I take up that issue again.

In the interim, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has published its draft report on how New Zealand might meet its Paris obligations through to 2050. A key message in the report is that forestry must not be used as the ‘get out of jail card’ (my term) that avoids facing hard decisions elsewhere in the economy.

The CCC estimate is that under current policy settings and with carbon priced at $35 per tonne, then new forests will increase by 1.1 million hectares by 2050. If the carbon price rises to $50 then the CCC thinks new plantings will increase to 1.3 million hectares.

Here is their precise wording (p45) in relation to using forestry in this way:

This [forestry-based approach] would fail to drive meaningful decarbonisation and instead use up land resources for the purpose of offsetting avoidable emissions. This is not sustainable and would leave the next generation with the task of reducing gross emissions at the same time as they will need to be adapting to escalating climate change impacts.

The CCC has done an important job by pointing out that it is a policy that takes us to the 2050 targets but then leaves New Zealand falling off a cliff.   As the Commission puts it: “We need to avoid pushing the burden to future generations”

The CCC then suggests just 380,000 hectares of new exotic forestry by 2035 in addition to replanting of harvested forests, together with 300,000 hectares of permanent native forests on less productive lands.  The CCC says (p67) that there is ‘in the order of 1,150,000 to 1,4000,00 hectares of marginal land’ that could be most suitable for these permanent forests but acknowledges nursery capacity, pest control and fencing as practical limits to the speed at which this conversion can occur.

The apparent flaw is that the CCC seems to over-align permanent forests with native species. The much-maligned radiata pine can also provide an important pathway towards non-harvested permanent forests on some marginal lands. It is much easier and a great deal cheaper to establish radiata pine than native forests.  The fast-growing radiata will also provide much greater carbon credits.

There is no single answer as to the right tree for permanent forests. However, radiata pine and perhaps other trees such as Douglas fir do have a role to play, even if the long-term aspirations remain focused on natives.  Sterile pine-hybrids, which do exist, might be part of that transformation strategy.

The scrum is getting screwed

A key issue right now is that Government policy is screwing the scrum towards forestry on productive farm land. This derives from a policy that encourages foreign investment on productive land as long as that land is used for production forestry.  Conversely, these investors cannot purchase the land for farming purposes.

This policy means that investment decisions largely lie in the hands of foreign investors with time horizons based on the first production cycle. Their logical decision processes, based on 17-year carbon averaging and first-cycle lumber at around 28 years, take us right up to the 2050 regulatory cliff that the CCC has so elegantly described.

Big questions therefore need to be asked as to why Government policy favours overseas investment in production forestry. New Zealand has plenty of capital of its own looking for a productive home, so why are we screwing the scrum in this way to foreign investment? 

Converting farm land to forestry does not require foreign technology or imported materials. Why does it need foreign investors? It would be better if New Zealanders were making those decisions.

The second area of policy where Government does have a role to play is in fostering permanent forestry investment on steep and erosion-prone marginal land. This is where institutional factors need realignment.  Perhaps there is need for an extension of QE2 Trust mechanisms so that planting on steep land of both permanent exotic forests and native forests can be undertaken in partnership between landowners and the public to create win-win situations for all.

My use of the term ‘public’ rather than simply ‘Government’ is purposeful. This reflects that there could be an increased role for the New Zealand Super Fund, for example, to invest in joint ventures with landowners on behalf of all of us.   

The need for independent information

Just recently, I enjoyed a Sunday lunch with a very experienced farmer with professional forestry qualifications who has lived his life with a focus on the ‘right tree in the right place’. He has complemented this with placing the ‘right livestock in the right place’. One topic we discussed was the lack of good-quality independent forestry information available to farmers. And from there he introduced the idea of an independent farm-forestry extension system.

By coincidence, in recent months I have been sharing reminiscences with former extension officers from the long-extinguished Ministry of Agriculture Farm Advisory service. That was where I started my own career a long time ago.

I see zero chance for re-establishment of an agriculturally-focused service for farmers. In large part this is because farmers have many existing sources of information relating to their farming activities. However, there is a real gap in relation to unbiased independent forestry expertise which farmers can trust.

Under the old farm advisory system – dismantled by neoliberal policies in 1987 – advisers were expected to work in the interests of farmers. They did not see themselves as being tools of Government policy. Rather, they were science and economics-led in trying to help farmers achieve their own goals.

The Farm Advisory Service did have a system for reporting back to Government as to the issues from a farmer perspective and what advisers were doing to assist farmers, but advisers would never have taken instructions from Government as to the policies they were to promote.

Many of us have opined over subsequent years that, with the destruction of the farm advisory service, ‘Wellington’ lost its independent perspective of what was really happening in rural communities. Instead, agriculture policy was increasingly led and administered by people who did not understand agriculture.

The essence of the advisory relationship was farmer trust.  Therefore, if Government had ever told advisers what to say, then we would have given Government the proverbial two fingers. 

I do wonder whether such a service could be created to assist land owners through the decision-making maze that they now face in relation to farm and forestry land-use decisions. Such a body might also keep Government much better informed as to the landholder decision-making framework.

The fundamental issue is that such advisers are not agents of government. They must be independent of government and every other lobby group in any advice they give.  It is worth thinking about.

*Keith Woodford was Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University for 15 years through to 2015. He is now Principal Consultant at AgriFood Systems Ltd. His articles are archived at You can contact him directly here.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


The policy resulting in productive farmland being put into primarily Pinus radiata is a result of Green party initiatives, which Labour supported.

There was an old guy on RNZ the other week saying planting native species is difficult and expensive. He said the best way to establish a native forest is to plant pine then leave it for 150 years.

Turns out that gorse actually works very well for establishment of native trees, too. The gorse grows quickly and creates a shelter for the seedlings, but doesn't block out too much light or take too much water, so eventually the natives can out compete it.

Hinewai on Banks Peninsula is a fascinating example of how it all happens. The proviso would seem to be either seeds already in the soil or a nearby seed source from remnant vegetation in gullies, with birds doing their part in dispersal thereof.
Here is an article on Hinewai that I wrote way back in 2009.

Gorse has been shown to leach nitrogen. In some regions under regional council plans, gorse has to be eradicated.
But you are correct, gorse can provide nursery like conditions for growing natives which will then crowd out the gorse. If Parker sticks to DIN 1 for waterways, there will be no gorse allowed. A case of be careful what you wish for? ;-)


Gorse is a legume that has rhizobia in association with it that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Without N fixing organisms, there would be no life on this planet. Some native plants also fix nitrogen with matagouri being a great example. In the Australian bush, it is the Acacias that do this job. In the absence of N fertilisers, it is the clovers and lucerne that do this job on New Zealand farms.
It is inevitable with any vegetation system there will be some N leaching unless it is a desert where the soil profile always remains dry. So it is all a matter of the extent thereof.

Yes I totally agree with the gorse job but if you are an older farmer who wants to retain his/her land then I would have to say what a waste of time as there will be no income. Far better to plant exotics for a fast carbon return. Also you can leave a production forest for future generations. Wood will be scarce in the future, and remember not all trees are equal as far as use ability are concerned. China may be growing trees but are they suitable for construction, our radiata is.

Although foreign companies got a head start on buying farmland for conversion to forestry up here NZ investors have recently gained scale and are becoming more competitive.
My concerns as a farmer
With the carbon price currently close to $40t and expected upside carbon traders are competing for farmland with production forestry businesses.
At $40t carbon traders are now buying land to plant close to ports and other infrastructure with no intention to harvest.
Marginal and steep land prices have been pushed from $6k ha up towards $10k effective grass ha after allowing for subdivision of the houses. At 8-10 su per ha this is above where beef and sheep farmers can compete.
Several of my neighbours have just sold to forestry - just counting the days until the school bus stops running and rural delivery only comes once a week.
The feeling of isolation will probably force us into joining them.

I am in total agreement with you that at $40 per tonne the pointer has pivoted to permanent forests and this was the key theme of my previous article two months ago. These are mega forces. I think it is increasingly clear that for any country running 3-5 stock units per hectare that has costs associated with weed control, then the economics now strongly favour forestry. In contrast, at 8-10 SU on clean country and with land values at $10,000 then I think sheep can still compete. However, forestry may well push the value of this land beyond this figure. If it is NZ capital, then at least the subsequent benefits go to NZ. But with overseas capital the value of the carbon is remitted back overseas. I am particularly uncomfortable with that as I cannot see that any value has been added to the system by that overseas capital.

Keith - I overstated the stock carrying capacity of the country they are buying up here. It is more 5-7 su per effective ha. Carbon traders are paying up to $10k per effective ha after accounting for lifestyle blocks along road frontages. So $1,200 to $1,500 su equivalent for store stock country. And in Northland our hill country has the options of blackberry, ragwort, sedge, thistles, gorse, totara.
There is a growing trend to capitalize the 17 years of carbon credits and front load payments. Great today but what about the future cashflow in rural communities.
Another concern is the lack of depth in the NZ carbon trading market. Potentially there are a lot of small carbon credit holders and a handful of large buyers who could manipulate the price if it rises too far or fast.
Keith - I agree with you that while NZ chooses to offset our emissions over reduce them (more politically palatable) the government is encouraging foreign corporations to buy our land and then getting NZ consumers to provide a guaranteed return on that land through the carbon credit market.

Keith, I think the price of wool will dictate what farmers will do with land in that 6-8 su per hectare production range. Right now with crossbred wool being worthless a lot of this land could potentially go forest. My sheep are fine wool with a fleece value of $30-40 and right now I’m thinking of planting parts of my farm in the 4-5 su per ha range, of course dependant on fencing and ability to harvest and transport. Any carbon price over $30 looks quite compelling.

Listened on RNZ from a mill owner in Kawerau this week. One of his points was that china intended to be self-sufficient in wood fibre by 2035, I hadn't heard that before and the implications would be huge for our log trade and those planting now.
As to the independent advisors, hell yes, every advisor I've met in the last 30yrs has been anything but.

China being "self sufficient" could mean they own the forests in other countries. Either through buying them at market prices, or acquiring them another way.

I think it is feasible for China to become self sufficient in timber by about 2035, substantially based perhaps on quick growing eucalypts, but I would need to dig deeper. There is a lot of hill-country land in China which could possibly carry more carbon than currently. With a stable population, and even declining by that time, and much less need for new infrastructure, they won't need our timber for formwork to the extent that they do currently

China already has a large forest plantation industry - much of it is eucalyptus in the south and poplar, on farms mainly, in the North, and the forests I have visited are very well planted and managed. Chinese foresters are very well trained and knowledgeable. The challenge they face is the same as we have - the better land is being taken to use in other uses leaving forests to move onto harder land - a lot of the harvesting is motor manual - done by people manually - Ive seen people carrying the logs out!!. The country is very steep and as such the costs of production are rising rapidly as labour supply tightens - sound familiar!! .
China has banned all logging in natural forests now - due to massive soil loss and erosion - they are planting to just stop the hills falling away - sound familiar!!
So they have rising costs and tough country to log. without wood imports China would be in big trouble. A lot of the wood imported is re manufactured and sent elsewhere in the world as well - China is a stop on the way to the final destination - plus packages all the manufactured goods being exported.

The key asset NZ has is that we can deliver product 12 months of the year - this ability to supply as such is vitally important in a manufacturing process. Its not to say demand will change and move over time - the market will mature as all markets do for all products but its hard to appreciate the sheer scale of the market with 1.3 billion people - once you go there and see the vastness of the market you realise how small we are. Our timber cut makes up a very small % of the world timber supply as do al the primary products we produce.

Even in NZ people do not see the scale of investment some companies like Oji are putting into wood processing here - the meat industry looks like a corner dairy on the basis of new capital being put in here to wood processing - they wouldn't be doing this without a belief in the future.
Some sawmillers here are complaining because demand is so high for raw logs and mills in China now are becoming world scale and class - it is not a third world country.

An excellent informative comment!!

Just to add a bit - Im at a conference linking in with China, Russia and Europe on wood supply - the common theme is one of increasing demand and decreasing supply - Russia alone uses 20 million m3 of lumber a year and is projected to rise to 40 million m3 in the next 30 years - they are now struggling with enough log supply - they have the forests but the cost to get to them is rising rapidly (They export a lot but more will become domestic use). Ditto Europe with huge forest losses to Bark Beatle. Australia - massive wood shortages as the effect of the fires hit - over 100,000 ha of plantations lost.

To top it off Fonterra presented - they will be converting all their boilers to biomass in the next 10 to 20 years - electricity is to expensive by miles. They will need 4,000,000 tonnes of wood biomass a year to burn - we cut around 30 - 32 million tonnes a year. You need a radiata estate of nearly 400,000 ha to feed this demand with 100% being burnt. They have priced in buying export logs.
There message - PLANT AS MANY TREES AS YOU CAN - preferably within 150km of the plant. At this rate Fonterra will become the largest single buyer of logs from NZ forests in the world.

You are in the know and the silence in replies says it all. As a real long term hard hill country farmer I can say the future is in carbon or bees.

Who owns land is important.
I think it's best for New Zealanders when it's owned by those who work it and live there.
So no foreign ownerships.
But also in dairy, we would be a better rural scene if we got back to most of the workforce being families and less like now where employees predominate.

Many employees are families KH. ;-)
In fact employing farm staff who may stay say 5yrs and move on, is the reason alot of rural schools are still open. Once a community becomes too 'settled rural schools can struggle because once one generation has gone through it, it can be quite awhile before the next one comes along. Also the regulatory environment dairy is expected to operate in and a govt that appears to be beholden to voices that often have no understanding of rural communities, and absolutely no direct part in the community, is putting many potential future farmers off farming. So farming long term is likely to only go one way - corporate driven. Young family owner operators are usually more innovative than investor corporates who are only interested in $ returns, sometimes at any cost to other things like environment and workforce.

Yes CO. And your remarks about corporates resounds across all the industries.

With carbon farming, no one is going to work it or live there. Carbon farming is the final nail in the coffin for the silivcultural worker. Planting, pruning and thinning as a trade is being replaced by RSE planters as it is no longer a full time occupation offering year round work. Carbon is now pricing out timber harvesting so even the loggers aren't getting a crack.

Rural schools and communities are canon fodder in the politicians attempts to change the climate back to the Little Ice Age era. They know damn well they won't make a blind bit of difference to the climate in 2100, but feel justified in shutting down rural schools today.

Sorry, but none of this is correct. You can still make very good money in silviculture, and theres no shortage of work. There is a shortage of workers, hence the rse workers. Carbon forests will still need workers, the workers required to keep it pest and weed free alone is more than what a sheep farm requires for a similar area. Plus the tourism and people wanting to live near native bush, bee keepers etc.
The notion that all the hard work going onto planning / implementing climate mitigation is actually been done to justify closing rural schools is ridiculous. not only do they believe they can make a difference, but believe it is vital that they do.

There is no silviculture in a carbon regime. Plant a pulp regime, release, forget. No thinning, no pruning - and the carbon price has reached a point where owners are deciding to not harvest trees that were planted originally for timber.

The closure of schools is collateral damage not a plan - well at least I will give them the benefit of the doubt, though an urbanite or small town welfarite is far more likely to vote left.
How is the tourism and bee keeping in Kaingoroa these days?

I believe we need to be specific about where permanent pine forests can be planted - they should be in places that we want to see back to native in the future and have a management plan attached to make sure it happens. Land that can be harvested should in timber so people are employed in Silviculture etc.
School closures in rural areas are everywhere - I drove through Mangaweka and Taihape last year - having worked there in 1981 it was a depressing trip and no big pine forests to be seen - what caused that? - its happening all over the world without any forests involved - there is some huge amount of abandoned villages in France and Spain in rural areas.

Agree. Plummeting birth rates don't help and permanent pine forest only exacerbate the decline. Once the school is gone it is over. This is not market forces at play, this is whimsical government policy picking winners to the detriment of less favoured industries. SMP's on steroids.

It's been the last move in a process that has been going on since the Enclosures. The move from land to cities has been growing exponentially, for 200 years. By and large, it has been driven by continued Enclosure; corporate elbowing is not much different and what AMD etc did to the mid-west was unfightable by individuals. As Joe's corner hardware couldn't compete with the buying power of the chainstores.

This process will reverse (perhaps rapidly) as the amount of energy being pumped into the system, reduces (pre Fossil Energy, no city surpassed 1 million, and then only by replacing deaths with rural-originated intake; the getting of stuff in and out just wasn't logisticlly possible. Governments are going to have to redistribute land ownership (from corporate/industrial/large, to individual/local/small) or face a trip in angst-driven tumbrels.

Pines are not good for the soil, as can be said for all monocultures. We took over farmed-into-the-ground slip counntry, to repair it (Macsaskill's Hold This Land is prominent in our bookshelf). We planted 1/3 macrocarpa, 1/3 eucalypts, and 1/3 revert-to-native. And we deliberately chose not to claim carbon credits, for obvious reasons. In hindsight, I'd have gone for 80% native and 20% eucalypt (coppiceable) woodlot.

Back in the 1970s a typical family farm would have had 1000 ewes. Nowadays, the surviving farms are larger and much less likely to be family farms.
Hence some big demographic changes independent of forestry.

Agree Keith and my point is there is many things in play. Its very easy to blame something. We need a good rational discussion about landuse and not fall into the old NZ trap of all or nothing. Its not going to be easy to retain life as we knew it in any land use as markets, demographics and technology challenge us all in ways we can't even imagine yet.

It is quite ironic that not only is Brendon Harre putting compelling info out there for everyone to see about European (Austria specifically), regarding housing strategies that have worked for a long time now. In Austria, you can also clearly observe the effects of smart long term thinking about who it is that should own and manage key resources such as the forests. See and read for your self from some time ago, a great read if you have the time to dig in a bit:

Selling tracts of farmland to OI seems morally reprehensible. But I feel my idea of 'country' is about 100 years too late

Since when is it ever a good idea to sell off land to foreign investors?

Hi Keith
A few weeks ago I caught the tail end of a tv news background piece on climate warming. What I think they were saying was that once the atmospheric temperature reached a certain level trees (and other flora I presume) begin giving off carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. Is this so, or did I miss something by not seeing the whole programme. If this were true then this is really scary.

Forests are already becoming carbon sources in some places...

Also, some research suggests leaving land to nature could be worth more than farming it (although what we do about food then isn't covered)

All plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen plus water during photosynthesis, using energy from the sun, and this is fundamental to plant growth.
Plants also respire and this is fundamental to their use of stored energy. Respiration uses oxygen and stored plant carbohydrates to create immediately usable energy that the pant uses for its survival, and creates water plus carbon dioxide. If a plant is growing, then photosynthesis must be occurring at a greater rate than respiration.
Different trees operate best at different temperatures. Climate change could lead to the wrong trees in the wrong place until nature adapts to the new situation and hence photosynthesis could be reduced in the interim. Also, there are two distinct processes of photosynthesis, with temperate plants using a different process (called C3) than tropical plants (called C4).
But extrapolating from there to saying that climate change might lead to the balance between photosynthesis and respiration changing such that there is more respiration than photosynthesis at a global level must surely be based on a myriad of assumptions. Nature is actually very clever at getting the right trees to the right places if given time and has done so in the past many times as earth has moved back and forwards from ice ages to warm periods.
It is always possible to portray real scary situations, but personally, I am not losing any sleep over the possibility that photosynthesis might decline such that on a world scale plant respiration might become dominant. So far, the effect of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has actually been to increase photosynthesis and hence plant growth. (This relationship between carbon dioxide concentration and photosynthesis is the reason why carbon dioxide is pumped into glasshouses where vegetables are grown.)
Taking New Zealand as an example, if temperatures warmed by say 4 degrees Centigrade then our beech, podocarp and radiata forests would march another 600 metres higher up the mountains and on the plains we would grow maize down in Southland. In Northland we would grow lots of tropical crops, and in the Northland lowland forests we might grow tropical tree species. We would use less energy for heating but more energy for air conditioning. Life would indeed become very different but one way or another life would continue. I acknowledge that these changes would create huge stress for humankind, but nature would adapt.

Thanks Keith
A very clear explanation.

I have now clarified one sentence on respiration where I got a bit tangled.

Whoops, repeat comment!

It's a pretty good argument in favor of global warming, what are the con's?

One area of concern is not directly co2 related , but to do with heating of the planet. That is that evergreen trees are dark and absorb heat , whereas snow covered grass/tussock is white , and reflects heat back out on cloudless days. This was said to me by someone in northern Maine, USA,as to why they dont biomass more . i don't know his source. i suspect a coal /oil industry influence..
the obvious answer to me is to use deciduous trees in these areas , or to pollard / coppice for biomass or fodder .

My family enjoyed biking in the pine forest at Rotorua last weekend.a sprinkling of natives appearing under the canopy.we used to go into the pine plantations near whitianga before felling and dig out nikaus, 30 years been only a couple metres high.we did it in jandals, hate to think of the h&s requirements today.
Pines are usable as a nurse plant for natives, but I would say other exotics would be better. Tree Lucerne , photinas, basically any fast growing exotic that has flowers or berries native birds eat. The birds will plant the natives then.

We seem to have two opposing attitudes to pinus radiata. Both conflicting.
On one hand we embrace them as a nationally significant industry and powerful global warming weapon. On the other hand we are very concerned about the inevitable swamping of our landscape, flora and fauna by wilding pines. If we plant them everywhere and the government encourages planting, the natural consequence will be that we will be swamped with wilding pines. As usual very unintelligent short term government thinking.

ChrisM, planting radiata is not short term thinking, in fact quite the opposite. There are many economic benefits as in more jobs whether that may be in roading etc. I find it strange that cutting down all native bush and burning it for grassland seems perfectly sensible to many as that is how we have created our present landscape. Restoring old growth podocarp forest is a 1000 year project. Seems perfectly rational to use any trees we have to do the job quicker.

I am a Radiata forest owner with partners, about to start felling this year on our 250Ha block. Due to carbon credits we have gained ( which weren't invented when we planted ) land use change is not really an option. We believe the massive Chinese demand for there infrastructure expansion will start dropping after another decade along with their drive for self dependency in timber. We will replant and sell land and future crop while it has a perceived value.

Good commentary - firstly its good to see radiata being talked about what it can do instead of being maligned. The basis tenant I see here is acceptance that yes it has an important role to play, and should used but should this be left to offshore capital to do and gain the perceived large financial benefits.
Firstly - offshore funds can't plant permanent forests so they will be production driven with carbon for a period of time so the question is do we want offshore owners owning more of our production radiata estate? I personally think we could do a lot of this within NZ but this is up to the landowners - farmers - to do the planting and to date even with free grants there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm - hence the need to use other capital to buy the land.
I agree on the question of natives - planting these is V expensive with a V high risk of failure. It doesn't mean we shouldn't plant them but really as discussed we need to use natural regeneration with assisted seed banks (via ares of planting) to assist. The big question here is that if you read the CCC report they want native planted/regenerated up until 2050 and in total they are looking for around 1 million ha over the next 30 years Now theres plenty of eroding land as they say, and as Keith points out does exists - this has been well documented by LUC land classes, regional council etc for decades. The issue here is that this land is currently used for farming in many cases - I don't see the land owners here being in a big hurry to lock it up - in fact they are the ones complaining the loudest about pines etc and I don't think they will be happy to exchange pines for natives - however they come - planted, regeneration or via pines. If we agree this is a good result someone high up in farming leadership had better have a good chat to them about the plan because they won't be/aren't happy campers.

With coarse wool where it is, and needing a miracle to become truly profitable as the costs will continue to rise - something will have to give - if this tree thing is so profitable for overseas buyers maybe we need to look at it - change is here, coming and won't stop. It is possible to do this within NZ (financially) and will take a lot of time as we only have the seed and nursery capacity to plant between 25 - 30,000 ha a year of new radiata forest after replanting harvest areas. Even at this rate of planting according to the CCC we will still have to have massive change in the way we ALL live and use resources.

As interest it is estimated from MPI discussions I have had there is about 5,000 ha a year of permenant radiata forest being planted- the rest -20 - 25,000ha is timber and carbon. Over 5,000 ha per year of manuka is being planted as well plus another 5 - 8,000 ha of land being left to regenerate to native each year.From what I see on the round around NZ this is about right.

Your confidence that all overseas forests will be managed on production lines is interesting. Correct me where I've got this wrong but they can buy and plant a 500ha farm for about $7m. The CCC has stated that the price of a carbon unit must increase so let's take a average of $50. ETS look up tables allow them to claim 800 NZCUs over 25 years. So the return is 500ha*800NZCus*$50/unit.$20m. That's now in their pocket. Surely if logging was subsequently disadvantageous they walk away, fold the company, whatever. We have no way of enforcement. Also they can keep claiming something up to at least 50 years.
The context for the policy only works if you dismember the carbon cycle. Yes photosyn. is the only drawdown part of the cycle. Co2 and its methane component are the respiration/digestion phase of the cycle. Without both there simply is no life cycle.

Overseas forests cannot be permanent. They operate under averaging. Under this they get carbon for 16 to 17 years. The carbon then stops. They harvest and then have to replant. Theres no incentive to walk away as a huge portion of the return is in the timber. As land price goes up carbon becomes a smaller portion of the return. At current land prices the pure carbon farmers have been priced out of the market even now. The key is realizing trees will not solve the problem they are part of the solution but simply help buy some time to actually decarbonize the economy. All forest owners I know accept this.

Radiata pine has got to go. Even on "marginal land". It depletes soil, carpets forest floor with impenetrable needles, and also pollutes surrounding waterways with its pollen and other detritus. Fir would not be much better. We have got to suck it up, restore native forests, grasslands etc, and be patient for the pay off. Who knows, after a period of time we may even have quality mill-able plantation native forests.

I think the point is to do that we have to work out how to - just planting natives is VV expensive and VV high risk of failure. The reality is you need to get rid of the exotic grasses - gorse, pines etc do this and allow the native to come away at a V cheap cost - this reversion will take decades to achieve - there is no easy quick fix. The point on soils is just wrong Im afraid and has been proven in Science many times. Pine pollen doesn't cause much hay fever as its to big - the biggest culprit is exotic grasses flowering. Radiata is a very poor spreader as a wilding tree and easy to control - other species such as Contorta, Corsican and D fir (in the wrong locations) are the problem children and virtually none is planted now.

justaparadox, if you start planting natives now you're great grandchildren will probably still have to use pine to build a house. I don't think that will help with the housing job.

Multiple rotations of radiata pine at the same location have shown no loss of soil productivity. Soil carbon increases so long as slash is retained. Needles decompose on the forest floor. Soil depletion usually only starts after conversion to farmland.