Catherine Delahunty

Seeing the forest and the trees

by Catherine Delahunty

RadioNZ reported this morning that forest plantings in NZ are at their lowest level since World War II. The report shows that just 1000 hectares of new forest was established during 2008 – down from 2400ha in 2007. New planting peaked at 100,000ha in 1992. Deforestation (not replanting forest after harvesting or converting forest to pasture) continued – 15,600ha was deforested in the year to March 08. Overall, the area of production forests in NZ fell by 17,100ha, down 1%.

Predictably, on the radio interview National blamed Labour and Labour blamed National.

Actually they’re both right – New Zealand’s rise in deforestation and slump in afforestation in recent years is a plague from both their houses. Labour failed to come up with a price on carbon until the dying days of their administration, and National – before and after the election – failed to give certaintly to the sector that forestry would earn credits and those credit would be worth something.

But it’s not just about quantity. The NatLabs have often agreed with Green ideas of diversifying our production forests beyond the Pinus radiata hegemony, and creating higher-value wood products rather than just the raw and methyl-bromide drenched logs that make up the bulk of our forestry exports. But they both singularly failed to do anything to change this situation. The latest stats show that “radiata pine is the dominant species, making up 89 percent of the planted forest area. Douglas fir is the next most common species, making up 6 percent”. And the slump in sales due to the recession is exacerbated because we have all our eggs in the raw log basket.

If we’d applied Greens’ policies on forestry and climate change years ago, deforestation would have long ceased and new plantings of quality trees would be well established. However, rather than just spouting “we told you so”, as the Greens’ forestry spokesperson I am promoting specific ideas and plans, and we hope the Government will take an interest. MAF’s forward-looking study signals we have to move in that direction anyway, but I think the sooner we do it the more our economy and environment will benefit. I am also exploring options for adding a forestry component to our Green New Deal we launched last week.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Catherine Delahunty on Thu, May 21st, 2009   

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