Rural communities fear the worst as more farms sold into forestry

There's increasing concern in rural communities about the rise of forestry, with fears it could see some small towns disappear altogether.

The issue is back under the spotlight after the reported sale of farm gear from Hadleigh Station in Wairarapa, a sheep and beef farm.

The farm was owned by Lone Star Farms, a corporate farmer owned by Nelson-based US businessman Tom Sturgess, and was sold to Roger Dickie New Zealand, a company which organises investments in forestry, the Waiarapa Times-Age reported.

President of Federated Farmers Wairarapa, William Beetham told Rural Today's Dominic George that growing numbers of farmers are worried about what is happening.

"I have been contacted by a significant amount of farmers who are concerned about current numbers of sheep and beef properties that are being being sold into forestry," he said.

William Beetham said there was growing concern in rural communities.
William Beetham said there was growing concern in rural communities. Photo credit: Supplied

He said previously, forestry buyers couldn't compete for the same priced land. However now, with Government subsidies, they are able to pay more than sheep and beef farmers.

Beetham believes overseas buyers are snapping up the farms.

"There is circumstantial evidence that foreign investors are coming in and are able to pay more than sheep and beef farmers."

"A lot of rural communities and, I would say urban communities, are starting to get very concerned about the subsidies available for forestry, and what that might mean for the future of their communities."

"We know that in other regions, large areas of forestation and monoculture of trees have meant that ... rural schools have closed down and rural communities have moved away and disappeared."

He said that service providers in Wairarapa are becoming concerned about what the increase in forestry might mean for their business and for ratepayers.

"You have to ask, what is the potential income stream from sheep and beef properties and what do they spend in the community. If you have a pine forest, you don't see any real income for cash flow terms for 25 to 30 years."

William Beetham said it was a concern in many other regions across New Zealand who are seeing the same issue.

"Communities are starting to say that they need to get together and take their concerns to the Government."