23 Sep 2009

Glitch over cost of clearing tree weeds to be fixed

3:11 pm on 23 September 2009

The Government says it intends to fix a legal flaw which led to large debts for clearing wild pine trees.

The Department of Conservation has stopped removing pines older than 20 years after running up debts of more than $800,000 and landowners clearing tree weeds now have a total debt of several million dollars.

A climate change law passed in 2002 set up large penalties for deforesting land.

The legislation was not meant meant to apply to the clearing of tree weeds, but since pine trees cannot be classified a weed, the clearing of feral and self-seeded pines attracted a bill of tens of thousands of dollars.

The Minister for Climate Change Issues, Nick Smith, says changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme being introduced to Parliament will solve the drafting error.

The change will be applied retrospectively from the beginning of 2008, wiping the debts of the department and landowners.

The Canterbury Regional Council, which has a large programme to eradicate wilding pines, says the legal glitch is hampering the operation. It says it's essential pine blocks are cleared before the trees spread out again.