In fact it appears that the “one way” transfer of our productive grazing land into the fast expanding exotic forestry estate is all part of the government’s plan to achieve its ill-advised zero carbon emissions target. More about that later.
The upcoming sale of 6200 hectares of prime East Coast hill country (Huiarua and Matanui Stns) with a combined carrying capacity of over 45,000 stock units and the probability that it might all end up in trees is more than just a little bit worrying.
In the New Zealand context this is the classic example of what is being allowed to happen to our most precious asset and worse still - it is promoted as being in the nation’s best long term interest. What a sick joke.
We are witnessing our government selling the family silver with little more justification than it makes our Prime Minister and her cabal of ideologues look good on the world stage, footing it with the big boys with an extraordinary, disproportionate contribution aimed at rectifying a problem that is not of our making.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Kiwis were the ones who would benefit from this drastic nonsensical sale of these “jewels in the crown” to those, many of whom owe no allegiance to our country and who offer no guarantees of a commitment to manage these assets in the best interests of future generations who may well decide to buy them back.
This is the sort of betrayal that l have railed against for such a long time yet for my trouble l am accused of using emotive hyperbole to describe what is in simple agrarian terms, the crime of the century.
I am used to the insults although don’t care much for this type of pathetic defence against my criticisms by local body politicians and others who should know better. It goes with the territory but what l will not tolerate is the apparent indifference to this tragedy by those who have the power to stop it happening.
And the reason l say that is because there are perfectly reasonable options available to central and local governments that would limit the transfer of this pastoral real estate to the parts of our hill country where it makes economic and conservation sense to do so.
At the same time we could satisfy the government’s commitment to its tree planting target without consigning some of our most productive land to a martyr’s death in the process.
When we brought our young family to the East Coast 41 years ago in order to fulfil a long held dream of owning our own property, there was a local authority by-law on the Council statute books (duplicated across the country) that limited the planting of exotic forests to what was described as “Class 7” land.
Virtually all of that country was highly erodible, and it made good sense to plant trees in an effort to stabilise the steep slopes and as a consequence - protect the rolling and flat, highly productive pastoral and cropping land at its base.
There is still an enormous amount of this class of land throughout New Zealand, as yet unconverted to forestry which would be easily its best end use even from a purely conservation point of view.
Why are the politicians not using this compromise method to achieve their objectives which would be a win/win for all?
It is unfathomable although we should have learned by now that rational thinking isn’t one of this crowd’s most endearing qualities.
We deserve better.
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.