Farmers sell out in forestry land grab

Farmers sell out in forestry land grab
Lobby group 50 Shades of Green is appalled at the amount of prime pastoral land being converted to forestry.

The unintended negative consequences of the Government’s billion trees programme is behind the establishment of 50 Shades of Green, the lobby group’s media relations/administrator Gwyn Jones says.
The organisation started in May this year after a concerned group of, mainly farmers, started talking together about (farm) sales happening in their district “and the shock that the sales were going into forestry”, Gwyn says.
“As the word spread the concern grew. As it turns out, the concern was broader than the Wairarapa district – much broader.”
The Government has set a goal to plant one billion trees by 2028, a programme touted to deliver improved social, environmental, and economic outcomes for New Zealand.
However, 50 Shades of Green’s members have become “appalled” at the amount of prime pastoral land being converted to forestry by overseas buyers.
This is despite the fact that the billion tree policy purport’s “right tree, right place, for right purpose.”
“The reality is, and (the) forestry (industry) has been explicit about this, they are after the rolling hills of prime sheep and beef country.
“Not only that, the policy is not delivering the 70% native, 30% exotic target; it currently is sitting at 88% exotic.”
50 Shades of Green estimates 30,000ha of farmland has been sold into forestry during the past year.
Real Estate Institute figures show for the year to April, North Island forestry land rose from a median of $6656 a hectare to $13,128/ha, while South Island forestry land fell 4% in the same period.
“Many farms were sold higher than valuation. It would be difficult if you were the last farm on the road, especially if you were nearing retirement and didn’t have a succession plan; it may be the only offer you would get in the next 20 years.”
Knock-on effects include loss of export income from sheep and beef because of reduced stock units, reduced demand for meat processors, falling school rolls, families moving and that some rural communities could ultimately be obliterated.
“This is already being experienced in the Pongaroa/Tararua region where 15 families were recently lost from the community. It affects all support business to sheep and beef, banks and local shops etcetera.”
“The reduction in stock units is resulting in loss of food production off land that was never intended to be converted to forestry.”
50 Shades of Green’s is lobbying Government put Farmers sell out in forestry land grabRussell Fredricon hold Overseas Investment Office forestry purchase approvals and to review changes made to the Overseas Investments Act in October 2018 which streamlined the process for forestry investors, while at the same time raising the bar for farming interests to buy land.
It is calling for the true intent of the billion trees policy to be adhered to and that only marginal land goes to forestry conversions.
It is also urging Government to call a pause on zero carbon legislation until a proper cost benefit analysis has taken place.
The legislation is estimated to cost the New Zealand economy up to $12 billion a year or $8000 for every household.
Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green is organising a provincial get-together in Wellington.
Chair, Andy Scott said the conservation group’s message needed to be told to a larger audience.
“The blanket planting of good farmland has reached crisis proportions. Add to that the water proposals, land use changes and the consistent campaign against rural businesses, we have a problem,” Andy Scott said.
“We’ll be telling our story to a city audience by coming to Wellington. The politicians aren’t listening to us so hopefully the general voters will.
“The meeting will be at 11am on Thursday 14th of November before marching to Parliament arriving at 1pm It isn’t just farmers coming to town but representatives of all of provincial New Zealand from farmers to bankers, stock agents to rural advocacy groups and suppliers though to real estate representatives.
“We’re expecting a good turnout of people from the provinces,” Andy Scott said.
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