A disease which is devastating trees in the Western United States and Europe is a major threat to New Zealand plantations and ornamental trees, should it ever arrive here.
The targets will require planting an average of 100 million a year for 10 years.
“We have done those planting rates before; we already plant around 50,000ha a year or 50 million trees,” Clark told Rural News. “You are talking an additional 50 million trees a year… some of these trees might be conservation trees – manuka or other species.”
The bulk will need to be fast growing exotic trees because that is what you need for the climate change requirements.
“You need to sequester the carbon so there is no point doing it all in native, for that purpose anyway.”
Clark says they got up to about 80,000 or 90,000 or even 100,000ha one year during the mid 1990s, “so it can be done physically”.
“The constraints this time are greater: in the mid-1990s when we were doing those sorts of numbers of planting, land value was maybe $1000-$2000/ha; now we are talking $6000-$7000/ha for hill country grassland. That is a major impediment.
“You’ve got to have the landowners wanting to plant the trees because I don’t think you are going to have many investors buying or leasing land at those sorts of values,” he says. “We foresters are economically rational and we need a return on investment.”
They need farmers planting the trees “but not in really tiny blocks,” says Clark. “They must have efficient harvesting and economic roading into them; it can’t be done on a tiny scale.”
He says the association has talked several times with the Minister for Forestry, Shane Jones.
“They know this is a challenge, but with the right policy settings there is a good chance of getting there or thereabouts,” Clark claims.
“We won’t get trees planted in the ground unless the landowners want it to happen. Most of the land is privately owned and landowners are rational people and they will need education and information on the pros and cons.”