NEW research shows the perils of mass forestry planting on New Zealand’s productive sheep and beef land.
Research released by Beef + Lamb New Zealand finds large-scale conversion of sheep and beef farms to forestry as a result of proposed zero carbon legislation will have a significant negative impact.
An analysis of an area where 8,486ha of sheep and beef farmland has, or is in the process of being, converted to forestry, shows forestry provides fewer jobs in rural communities than sheep and beef farms.
The report by rural consultancy BakerAg found if all the sheep and beef farms in the area were converted to forestry, it would see a net loss of nearly 700 jobs – the equivalent of one in five – and net NZ$23.5 million (£12.5 million) less spent in the local economy when compared to blanket forestry.
“This report illustrates the huge risks of unintended consequences from poorly designed policy and emissions targets, which will incentivise a high level of afforestation and result in a devastating impact on rural communities,” says B+LNZ chief insight officer Jeremy Baker.
“The targets for methane are excessive given the science on what is needed to limit warming, while at the same time there is unfettered access to offsets for fossil fuel emitters in the Zero Carbon Bill, despite fossil fuel consumption having to actually decrease.
“The net result is that it’s a real possibility that many districts across the country could see all their sheep and beef farms converted into forestry with disastrous consequences for the local community.”
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has forecast that under a net zero target for carbon dioxide, there would only be a 40-per-cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and some 5.4 million hectares of trees would likely be planted to offset the remaining 60 per cent of fossil fuel emissions, equating to 70 per cent of the effective area in sheep and beef farming:
“The sheep and beef sector is willing to play its part to meet New Zealand’s international climate ch-ange commitments,” Baker says. “It has already reduced its emissions by 30 per cent since the 1990s.
“Sheep and beef farms also have some 1.4 million hectares of native forest and 180,000 hectares of plantation pine on them, so it’s important to build on this base and integrate sensible tree planting into sheep and beef farms rather than see wholesale conversion, which is socially, economically, and environmentally unsustainable.”