18 Dec 2014

Farm forester challenges minister's claim

2:54 pm on 18 December 2014

A farm forester has taken issue with Climate Change Minister Tim Groser on New Zealand's options for reducing or off-setting its greenhouse gas emissions.

Tim Groser

Tim Groser Photo: RNZ

The minister said after the recent climate change talks in Peru that New Zealand has relatively few low hanging fruit left in terms of measures it could take to mitigate emissions, which are forecast to increase.

However, Denis Hocking from the Rangitikei district challenges that, saying the obvious answer is forestry and planting more trees could off-set this country's greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture for decades.

"I think I speak for a lot of the forest industry when I say that Groser's comments about not having low-hanging fruit for greenhouse gas emission mitigation really suggests that he's not looking very far.

"But it also perhaps fits in with this Government's disinterest and - dare I say it - disdain for forestry, where we have a minister outside Cabinet taking responsibility for what is the country's third biggest export earner and also main climate change mitigator.

"The possibility of greenhouse gas emission off-sets would also mitigate another major environmental problem, namely soil erosion. I think this is too good to overlook. Soil erosion is a major problem in New Zealand. We have amongst the highest soil erosion rates in the world. We export down our rivers about 30 million tonnes of topsoil a year.

"Landcare Research estimates we have probably the better part of a million hectares of highly erodible land that needs forests or at least woody vegetation cover, for soil conservation reasons alone. If we added a million hectares of pinus radiata forest to the country, this would essentially offset 90 percent of agriculture's emissions for 30 or 40 years."

Mr Hocking says contrary to the Government's claims, new forestry planting is at its lowest level in 50 years and he says the emissions trading scheme, which was meant to encourage tree planting to off-set carbon emissions, has been a total fiasco.

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