What progress has the Government made in reversing the deforestation over the past decade, and what further reports has he seen on future forestry intentions?
I am pleased to report that the latest forestry data show a small gain in New Zealand’s forest area for 2009. This contrasts with significant losses in 2008, 2007, and 2006. The principal reason for the turn-round has been reduced deforestation. This has dropped from a peak of 20,000 hectares to 3,500 hectares in 2009. I am also encouraged by the survey’s results, released today, which show low deforestation intentions into the future of only about 2,000 hectares per year. There are also positive signs for new planting, with 4,000 hectares of new planting last year, which is more than double that of 2008. This trend is positive and shows that confidence is coming back to the forest sector.
New Zealand’s plantation forest area has consistently grown, with major spurts in the 1930s, the 1970s, and the 1990s. However, there have been only three years since records began when there was net deforestation, those years being 2006, 2007, and 2008. The net gain of 500 hectares last year is small, but the fact that we are back on a growth path after 3 years of significant deforestation is encouraging. I am also encouraged that forester intentions indicate there will be net gains of 4,700 hectares this year, 5,700 hectares next year, and 7,700 hectares in 2012.
What reports has the Minister seen on the impact of the emissions trading scheme on deforestation intentions into the future?
The report released today is very clear that New Zealand would be losing significant forest area without the emissions trading scheme legislation. The survey indicates that the deforestation rate would be more than three times higher than it is, or about 8,000 hectares per year. The Government has gone to considerable effort, in its moderation of the emissions trading scheme, to more than halve the cost for consumers and for industry but to retain the full price signals to the forest sector, and this latest data on foresters’ intentions is showing the positive results that this policy is delivering.