First published at: interest.co.nz on 14 March 2023
A recent article published at www.interest.co.nz purported to discuss the recent flood events in the Hawkes Bay and "what is needed in terms of land management", presumably to prevent these types of event from happening again. Widespread damage from the floods was at least partly the result of poor logging practices. Huge quantities of slash were washed down hillsides and into the rivers, destroying roads, railway lines, bridges, fences, paddocks, farm buildings and homes.
Yet incredibly, the interviewer asked the forest ecologist quoted in the article: "if we have a forestry problem, particularly carbon farming and whether the industry needs to be managed better". Even more incredibly, the forest ecologist replied that: “Yeah that plant-and-leave carbon farming I think that that's setting up major problems for future generations, in the sense that those forests that are planted in the notion that they will replace themselves to be permanent.”
What an incredible twist of the facts! This article gives the impression that carbon forestry caused the awful events of Cyclone Gabrielle. and that permanent carbon forestry could lead to similar disasters in the future. This misinformation needs correcting.
Key points are these:
Forestry slash in Hawkes Bay came from commercial logging sites
Poor logging practice lead to the washing of slash into rivers under heavy rainfall
Destruction and damage to neighbouring properties and infrastructure from mobile slash in storm events has happened frequently before and has been reported to authorities. Some prosecutions have ensued
Permanent carbon forestry does not create slash problems because the trees are not clear-fell harvested
If carbon forest is harvested under averaging accounting, competent advisors will recommend sustainable harvesting practices. Selling harvest waste for chip, or chipping and recycling it on-site are two examples of such
If exotic carbon forestry, as the trees grow old replacement planting programmes can be used to transition old forest to new. This is not an issue for native forest because it matures over very long time periods
Converting pine forest to native forest for permanent carbon forestry can be managed professionally so that the transition is smooth. It certainly need not involve the production of thousands of tonnes of slash
There is no such thing as "lock-up-and-walk-away-forest" or "plant-and-leave-carbon-farming" in professional carbon farming practice
Professional carbon farmers recognise that they are forest stewards, responsible for managing the forest for maximum carbon stock production, for increased biodiversity, erosion prevention, water quality protection, and native seed propagation
This also means that professional carbon farmers have active programmes for pest destruction (they don't want animal pests eating or destroying their carbon stock), disease control, and fence maintenance, as examples of common carbon forest management practices
Permanent carbon forestry in marginal country sits well with and can fund other sustainable land use practices such as honey production, tourism, adventure parks, "glamping", high-value guided hunting excursions, restoration of traditional historic sites, scientific research, arable and pastoral farming, and purchase of other properties for multiple-use land options, (not just carbon farming)
Permanent carbon forestry shows New Zealand is making a genuine contribution to tackling climate change, which was one of the major causes of the Cyclone Gabrielle disaster. Carbon farming will also help protect our exporters from future carbon tariffs being proposed by the European Union and USA for countries that are not actively working to reduce their emissions.
To conclude, carbon farming is a win-win for many reasons. Properly managed permanent carbon forestry will help keep the hillsides up, it will never generate massive slash tsunamis like we have seen lately. They will set up future generations for success in climate change action, sustainable forest re-establishment, and revenue generation from otherwise marginal country.