Govt axes controversial forestry shake-up

By Will Trafford

The government has axed plans to cut exotic trees like radiata pine from the Emissions Trading Scheme, something iwi groups say would have cost Māori billions of dollars.

Embattled Climate Change Minister James Shaw tabled the controversial idea, which was slammed by Ngā Pou ā Tāne, the National Māori forestry lobby, earlier this year.

The group estimated it would cost Māori forestry $7 billion in lost income, by not allowing Māori to claim carbon credits for exotic trees they planted.

The lobby received a letter from Shaw, co-signed by forestry minister Stuart Nash, yesterday, saying the government would “take more time to fully consider options” for the ETS.

"It is unlikely that we will propose closing the permanent category to exotics on January 1, 2023.” It said.

At the time of the original announcement Māori forestry leaders said the government lacked an understanding of the types of terrain and soil many iwi were dealing with, which was frequently incapable of growing natives.

Te Kapunga Dewes from Ngā Pou ā Tāne said almost 30% of Aotearoa’s ETS forestry was estimated to be on Māori land, with that share expected to grow to 40% in the coming years, as more Tiriti settlements closed.

The government was championing the planting of exotics under the scheme as recently as 12 months ago Dewes said.

Owners of permanent exotic forests like Pine are likely to be able to sell the carbon absorbed by their trees under the ETS from next year.

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