Carbon farming threatens viability of rural communities
Ruapehu mayor Weston Kirton has called for immediate government action to address the threats posed by carbon farming to productive farmland and rural communities.
"In regions that are seeing a rapid pace of carbon farm conversions rural communities are fearing for their future," he said.
"They are seeing the loss of significant areas of productive land with flow-on impacts including the loss of skills, employment, economic activity and community identity, along with negative environmental outcomes.
In my local area around Taumarunui around 10,000 ha of good hill country, including three large stations, have been signed up for sale to corporate forestry interests in recent months in addition to several thousand hectares of previously converted hill country farms."
Mayor Kirton said he received overwhelming support for his call for urgent action on carbon farming from the 18 central North Island councils at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Zone 3 regional meeting last week.
"The calls for immediate Government action are only going to get louder as the pace of carbon farm conversions grows and councils face a loss of local population, employment, economic activity, and their rating base.
While there is no doubt that reducing carbon emissions is essential to combat climate change New Zealand needs solutions that are not at the expense of hill country farmers and rural communities.
It is not about stopping carbon farming but stopping the way it is currently being allowed to take place.
Rural councils want to see government policy or legislative change to enable us to manage this risk at a local council level.
We would like to see planters being required to work with councils to minimise the impact on at risk communities, financial bonds in the event of a 'walk away', 50-meter fire setbacks, a differential rating of carbon farms to mitigate any economic, social, cultural, or environmental losses, and the ability for councils to oppose farm conversions where it exceeds certain thresholds.
In the interim we are urging carbon farmers to work with the local council to find solutions that benefit everyone.
We all need to work together to find solutions that address both climate change and the needs of hill country farmers and rural communities," he said.