By KATY JONES
Iwi have little option but to keep forestry on land handed back by the Crown, a top of the south iwi says.
As the forestry industry faces criticism for the environmental impact of some of its operations, Ngati Koata says the structure of its settlement deal gave it little room to move.
The iwi received around 9000 ha of forestry land across Nelson and Tasman as part of the settlement on its Treaty of Waitangi claim, signed in 2012, including most of the pine plantations in Nelson’s Maitai River catchment.
Tighter controls on forestry in the catchment were called for last month, after research confirmed that harvested or recently replanted pine forests were a significant source of environmentally-damaging fine sediment in the river, in line with findings from river systems in Tasman district.
Forestry companies in the district have also faced renewed pressure to cease logging some hillsides, after slips and debris from land including plantations swamped properties during ex-Cyclone Gita in February.
Ngāti Koata found itself in a very difficult position, bound by a Crown lease on the land that didn’t expire for another two years, chairman of the Ngāti Koata Trust Frank Hippolite said.
The iwi had entered into an agreement with the company that held the lease, Tasman Pine Forests, to replant pine forest blocks as they were harvested, otherwise Ngāti Koata would have to pay the liability for carbon credits that had slumped in value, he said.
“We have a choice … we either replant, or we don’t replant.
“Just to pay the carbon credits would take most of the money we got back in the settlement.”
Carbon credits given to Ngāti Koata as part of the deal plunged to 14 cents a tonne in 2013, shortly after the Iwi signed the deed of settlement.
It emerged that New Zealand companies bought international credits from the Ukraine and Russia, since described by commentators as fraudulent.
Ngāti Koata didn’t own any forest plantations before the settlement, and said it had concerns about the environmental impacts of stripping the hills of native bush.
However, talks with Tasman Pine Forests, a subsidiary of the Japanese firm, Sumitomo Forestry NZ, had been positive, Hippolite said.
The two parties had discussed environmental measures “way before” the latest research on the Maitai River came out.
“They have volunteered to move back from the river, so there would be less sedimentation, and to mitigate the sedimentation by putting in native trees close to the river.”
The company had indicated that 2000 ha of Ngāti Koata land was no longer suitable to use as forestry.
While Ngāti Koata had yet to decide how to use that land once the Crown lease expired, it was “walking a tightrope” on its environmental and economic obligations for the remaining 7000 ha.
“We need to also remember that we’re supportive of our economic growth in our community and the forestries play a part in that.”
Ngāti Koata was not alone in being “locked into forestry”, Hippolite said.
“Now you have iwi that own 40 per cent of all forest land in the country, and are all labouring under the same problem.”
For another article on how an unfair deal has locked the Ngati Koata into Forestry go to Radio NZ article by clicking here