The Flexible Land Use Alliance consists of Blakely Pacific Ltd, Carter Holt Harvey Ltd, Fonterra Co-operate Group Ltd, Forest Enterprises Ltd, Landcorp Farming Ltd, the New Zealand Forest Owners Association Inc., PF Olsen Ltd and Wairakei Pastoral Ltd. I found it very interesting that an SOE is amongst the members – but that is good – they should be able to advocate for sensible policy, so long as they do so openly.
The issue is the deforestation liability on pre-1990 forests. It has already led to massive deforestation prior to its implementation, and the group has pointed out that it may lock up to 200,000 hectares of land into forestry when it would be more economic to use it for other purposes.
Their preferred position is to exempt pre-1990 forests, but that has been dismissed by the Government (and National) as viable. However their backup option appears to have gathered remarkable support – the Greens, NZ First, United Future and ACT have all backed the backup option of offsetting – which will allow owners to convert a pre-1990 forest to other uses, so long as they plant an equivalent amount of forest elsewhere.
This means that the environmental benefits are much the same, yet the locking up of land in a potentially economically inefficient manner is minimised.
Jim Anderton appears to be taking a sensibly pragmatic approach to the proposal:
Forestry Minister Jim Anderton said the concept had been considered already and the conclusion was that the disadvantages outweighed the benefits.
But the Government was happy to look at it again, have the proposal evaluated and discuss it with stakeholders, he said.
One of the things which third term Governments often do, is dismiss any proposal on the grounds they know best, and have already considered it. Anderton’s response could be a template for other Ministers – don’t dismiss out of hand, say you’ll evaluate it again and are open to discussions.
Of course with National appearing to also favour the proposal (“the idea … has merit), it may already have 61 votes in the House, regardless of the Government. But if Labour/Progressive also back it, then one may have near total support for it. Maori Party are not quoted as to their position, but Maori interests are amongst the Alliance members and they cite the current policy as being a Treaty breach, so I suspect the Maori Party will also be supportive.