1bn Trees Just Don't Stack Up
The government's plan to plant one billion pine trees does not stack up economically or environmentally and needs to be dropped until the benefits can be proven to outweigh the harm.
Pine trees use around 100L of water per day which means in 3.5 days those 1B trees will use the same amount of water as the residential use of all New Zealanders in a year, and for what gain?
Pine tree needles are acidic, which is fine if you are putting them around blueberries, but not so fine if they are finding their way into waterways and suppressing life. The Kai Iwi lakes were surrounded by pines that were old and presenting safety concerns. Once removed, lake levels returned and water quality has improved dramatically, along with fish health.*
The Government's drive for the planting of the pines is as a carbon sink. However, the benefits of that sink are difficult to determine, and only apply for the first 25 to 30 years in their growth stage. What happens after that is harvesting of the trees which releases the carbon and so the whole exercise is then fruitless. Our export market for pines has already collapsed to a point where the government is subsidising the training of forestry workers into other fields. That is not to say it will not come back, but does show vulnerability.
When calculating how many trees are required to negate our carbon output, the 24% of New Zealand covered in Native forests is totally ignored.
New Conservative is concerned that we are planting pines that harm the environment, take up good land, pollute the waterways, that people are not buying, to achieve indiscernible short term benefits while ignoring the 24% of New Zealand covered in Native forests. On top of this some of the biggest land owners in New Zealand are international organisations investing in forestry, which means we are also incentivising foreign ownership of our country.**
Forestry is an important part of our economy, but it shouldn’t be subsidised to a point where it forces out other land use on false economies. People complain that it takes 1000L of water per 1L of milk. Forestry takes 1M litres of water for less than 3 cub m of wood (and that’s just the raw product, not the processing), with the land locked up for 25 years.
“Plant trees where it is economically viable to do so on land that has limited other uses, but don’t use taxpayer funds to provide an artificial lumber economy,” says New Conservative leader Leighton Baker.