Following concerns raised by the public and a visit to the site of October’s Livingstone fire, Otago Regional Councillors and iwi representatives on the council’s strategy and planning committee discussed tree planting for carbon sequestration (carbon forests) during a meeting last week.
“Unlike plantation forestry, carbon forests are planted and left in perpetuity,” Cr Kevin Malcolm said. “As forestry for carbon sequestration is currently a permitted activity in the Otago region, there’s not the same level of maintenance and hazard management expected for forests planted for harvest. This can lead to pest problems, depleted river flow in water-short catchments, and increased fuel loads for bush fires.”
National policy had created unintended consequences that would have “potentially dire environmental consequences” and locally, there was particular concern about activities in the Kakanui catchment in the Waitaki district, Cr Malcolm said.
The committee resolved to lobby central government to ensure sufficient standards were in place to manage the land use change, impacts and risks associated with carbon forests.”Both regional and territorial authorities need central government support to urgently resolve these issues,” Cr Malcolm said.
Otago Regional Council staff will also pursue opportunities to manage land uses, including tree planting for carbon sequestration purposes, as part of the development of the land and water regional plan, which is due to be notified by December 2023.
The Waitaki District Council was also seeking legal advice for a district plan change and hoped to have another public meeting on the issue later this month.
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Source: ODT, Otago Regional Council