'A recipe for disaster': Rural lobby group launched to oppose billion trees policy

A lobby group has been formed as concern grows about the impact of the Government's billion trees policy on rural communities.

The group, named 50 Shades of Green, aims to convince politicians and decision makers that the current push to plant a billion trees will destroy the provinces, and ultimately the New Zealand economy.

Spokesperson Andy Scott said converting whole farms to trees, often by foreign companies was a recipe for disaster.

"In the Wairarapa there have been seven farms moved from production, in Pongaroa there has been between 6000 and 8000 hectares planted in trees," he said

"We’re not talking non-productive or erosion prone parts of a farm we’re talking entire productive food producing properties," said Scott.

He said taking farms out of production would devastate local communities with the economic and social impact.

"In addition as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment stated, pinus radiata is not a credible way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

"Instead of revitalising the provinces the tree planting will destroy them."

The issue was under the spotlight in April 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 Newshub that growing numbers of farmers were 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 sold into forestry," he said.

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 believed 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."

He said some areas had already been badly affected.

"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."