21 Nov 2009

Iwi push for ETS deal to plant trees on Crown land

8:07 am on 21 November 2009

Papers leaked to Radio New Zealand News show iwi leaders are pushing for the right of first refusal to plant trees on Crown-owned land, as negotiations over the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) continue.

They also want iwi to be the preferred joint venture partners in any forestry projects undertaken by State Owned Enterprises.

A deal is on the table which would allow Maori foresters to plant trees on conservation land that is deemed marginal, and to claim the carbon credits. This would form part of an agreement with the Maori Party to support National's ETS.

But the leaked document reveals further details about what iwi leaders expect before they will throw their weight behind the legislation.

A key demand is flexible land use, which means that when trees are cut down there can be replanting in a different place.

The iwi leaders also want Maori to have an effective right of first refusal over planting on Crown-owned land.

They want a fund set up to pay for tree planting, and the aquaculture sector to be included in free allocations of carbon credits.

Both National and the Maori Party have indicated they are close to reaching a deal.

Not preferential - Te Aho

A Maori negotiator, Willie Te Aho, says five iwi - Waikato-Tainui, Ngai Tahu, Te Uri o Hau, Ngati Awa and Ngati Tuwharetoa ki Kawaerau - bought forest land as part of their settlements before the ETS was announced.

He told Waatea News the planned deal shouldn't be seen as offering preferential treatment.

"It's actually settling of a legal dispute that iwi would have won in an innovative way that actually doesn't cost the Crown, because the Crown lands that they're looking to afforest have nothing on them now.

"It's doing the country a favour, and the benefit that the iwi get out of this is that they're able to trade the carbon to offset the liabilities that they will incur when they deforest their land.

Criticism ill-founded - Turia

Meanwhile, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia told Waatea News that criticism the party has turned its back on ordinary Maori is ill-founded.

"With the petrol, we managed to talk the Government into reducing the amount by 50% that they were going to raise it by, and also the electricity costs," she says.

"Those things will have a huge impact on our day to day whanau."

Mrs Turia says the scheme passed by the previous Labour government would have hurt the economy because New Zealand does not have the technology to control most of its agricultural emissions.

National will have to concede - Labour

The Labour Party says National's put itself in a position where it will have to concede to demands from iwi if it wants to push through its changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Labour's climate change spokesperson, Charles Chauvel, says National's insistence on passing legislation before the Copenhagen climate change conference, leaves it in a difficult position.

"They've agreed to an Emissions Trading Scheme that favours corporate interests generally, and now you're seeing big demands from iwi corporate interests which they'll clearly have to satisfy if they insist on this headlong rush to enact their amendments by the end of next week."

Racial base - ACT

The ACT Party says the iwi leaders' demands are disgraceful.

ACT MP John Boscowen says any deal based on those demands would be racially based and bad for non-iwi forest owners.

He says there's no need for National to rush a deal with the Maori Party as ACT will support an amendment to delay the implementation of Labour's scheme.

Taxpayers would bear cost - foresters

A forest owners' lobby group says taxpayers would end up paying

Forest Owners Association spokesperson David Rhodes says any fines issued to New Zealand for ignoring the rules could be picked up by the taxpayer.

He says flexible land use should be made available to all forest owners regardless of when trees were planted or who they belong to.