Mike's Minute: Govt's obsession with planting trees a big mistake

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Jun 2020, 9:43AM

Mike's Minute: Govt's obsession with planting trees a big mistake

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Jun 2020, 9:43AM

I am glad the forestation of this country at the expense of good, productive farmland finally appears to be getting the sort of attention it deserves. The trouble with a crisis, is it takes your eye off all sorts of balls, and  various issues would have had far greater scrutiny if we hadn't had a virus to deal with.

Planting trees to allow us to meet our Paris accord deal is potentially a catastrophic mistake that is unfolding before our eyes.

Firstly, because our calling card to the world is not our climate credentials, it’s the food we sell. For that you need productive land. Under the Emission Trading Scheme changes, the price of carbon lifts. As it lifts, it becomes more attractive to buy land to plant trees.

Planting trees is easy, and people always take the easy path. And what makes this worse is many who invest in these trees have no intention of harvesting them. They're simply there to clip the ticket.

The answer is simple, limit conversion. We limit all sorts of things these days. Foreigners can't buy certain houses, some companies can't buy other companies, or some companies can't take over other companies. There are rules everywhere, whether they make sense is a matter for another day, but the unfettered conversion of farmland to forest land can easily be controlled.

What's interesting is whether those who are more obsessed with climate than our future really want to.

That’s where James Shaw comes in. It seems a strange thing that a bright bloke like him, doesn't see all of this. Unless, of course, he does, but he doesn't really care. He's happy to have trees, not sheep. Also unusual that someone of the left wouldn't understand, if not sympathise, with the community aspects of all of this.

The beef and lamb numbers are stark. Money from farms outweighs money from trees, whether you harvest them or not. If you don’t, the money from farms far outweighs trees. It outweighs forestry on jobs, on income, and community spending.

The farmers have to play their part too. There's no point bemoaning the end of an era, if you’ve flicked the farm off to pocket the profit. And I'm surprised National, as a party of the farmer, haven't been working this for months. By the time you look at this government's record with the rural community, there are votes aplenty, not to mention a way of life to save. Isn't that what they're in politics for?

As for the trees, it's relatively simple. You don’t solve one problem by creating another.