5 Sep 2014

Forestry group against buyback plan

3:16 pm on 5 September 2014

The New Zealand Institute of Forestry has condemned the National Party's proposal to use taxpayers money to retire farmland next to important waterways as paying polluters to pollute.

If elected back to power on 20 September, a National-led Government would spend $100 million over 10 years to buy and retire selected areas of farmland next to important waterways to create environmental buffer zones.

Forestry Institute president James Treadwell says other land users, such as foresters, have in the past voluntarily agreed to set back from rivers to ensure protection of waterways without any financial incentives from the Government.

Mr Treadwell believes National's plan is a ridiculous attempt to fix the damage caused by uncontrolled dairy intensification.

"We all know about dirty dairys and the stream side issues, we all know that dairy intensification has affected our waterways, and this is basically saying to those who have caused the issue, 'Hey, we will give you a subsidy for doing that'.

"But actually what it is doing is increasing the value of the land to dairy farmers and, let's face it, most of the dairy farmers are dairy farmers for the capital gain they get from the land - and that is just coming straight from the taxpayer.

"I think that any business should go into it with eyes wide open, they should realise that they have an obligation to the public and they should pay for that."

Mr Treadwell says individual farmers should carry the cost themselves.

"It's no different to any other business - so yes, they should carry the cost themselves. We are not asking for for subsidies, but we are asking for a level playing field.

"They are doing it already and in the announcement they have said, and even Federated Farmers have come out and said quite clearly, 'Hey, we are (already) doing this and have done 90 percent of the streams'.

"So I just don't actually understand why the Government are wanting to do it now. It's being encouraged. Fonterra have already said if you want to deliver milk to ask you have to do this, so why is the Government throwing money around?"

Mr Treadwell says he wonders if foresters stopped setting aside land beside streams would they get taxpayer funding to resume.

Lobster industry welcomes move

However, the rock lobster industry has welcomed National's pledge to buy and retire farmland next to waterways to provide a buffer and improve water quality.

Executive officer Daryl Sykes says it sets a useful precedent for resolving similar concerns relating to the marine environment and the industry is keen to work with the Government to introduce a similar policy for marine conservation.