The amount of farmland converted into forestry revealed

Newshub can reveal 25 times more land was converted into forestry last year than a decade ago. 

It's angered farmers who hope the Government's ministerial inquiry into forestry slash will lead to limits on land conversion. They say the Government needs to answer for incentivising forestry to earn carbon credits.

"We're not absolutely against off-setting, we're certainly not against commercial forestry, but our argument is that there needs to be some limits put on it," Beef + Lamb CEO Sam McIvor told Newshub. 

Figures obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act show a rise in recent years of new forestry area, from 695 hectares in 2013 to more than 18,000 hectares last year. 

Approved consents by Land Information New Zealand for farmland conversion to forestry have also risen, from just one in 2013 to 31 last year. 

"Absolutely, we're concerned," McIvor told Newshub. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is listening. 

"It's going to be front of mind for the Government, what the incentives are around forestry, where we should be planting forestry," Hipkins told Newshub. 

"One of the things I'm very mindful of too is we don't necessarily want all of our best land being consumed by forestry. We've got other primary sectors who we want to keep thriving as well."

That's not to say some farmland isn't suitable for conversion. Six years ago, officials determined that about a quarter of all our farmland was considered fit for forestry.

But every year it's growing and now planting more trees just brings more concerns about the long-term impacts of the carbon offsetting incentive.

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash told Newshub he's undertaking work to ensure that by 2025, the 'permanent' category of the Emissions Trading Scheme - forests not intended for harvest - will be restricted to those in managed transition from exotic trees, like pines, to native ones. 

It's not a new issue. Farmers marched on Parliament in 2019 against the Government's One Billion Trees programme, led by then-Forestry Minister Shane Jones, of New Zealand First. 

Environmental forestry consultant Sean Weaver, the CEO of Ekos, understands farmers' concerns, but said it's a complex issue. 

"The Hawke's Bay Regional Council has aspirations to forest about 2000 hectares of erosion-prone farmland, into permanent forestry. So, on the one hand we've got people not wanting trees on the land and on the other hand we've got to get a lot of trees on the land," he told Newshub. 

"We've got a conundrum and we're not going to solve that conundrum by having a big fight."

And not all forestry is for carbon offsetting. 

"We're purchasing around about 1000 hectares a year of what you'd call pastoral land and we are converting that into production forestry," Pan Pac Forest Products managing director Tony Clifford told Newshub. 

The Japanese-owned company itself suffered the wrath of Cyclone Gabrielle, with its Whirinaki Mill near Napier completely flooded last week. 

And with forestry exports worth an annual $6.6 billion, it's also important to the economy. 

"I think it's a case of striking a balance," Clifford told Newshub.

Weaver said the ministerial inquiry into forestry also needs to look at pastoralism. 

"These landscapes are very erosion-prone and so this means that we need to rethink what kind of productive land use can happen on this land."

The inquiry recommendations are expected by the end of April.