Rule changes cut wilding tree onus

Last minute changes to deforestation rules under the emissions trading scheme have made wilding tree management possible, say Environment Southland.

Landowners clearing wilding trees established before 1990 have until October 31 to apply to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to have the trees exempt from the emissions trading scheme (ETS), with the exemption registered against the land regardless of any change in ownership.

Last month, the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust warned Environment Southland that the original exemption criteria was unworkable.

Cr Ali Timms told the regional services committee that conditions attached to the exemption required a 100% kill of the trees by December next year, something that was impossible anyway, but less likely given researchers were still trying to develop an effective herbicide and spray management plan.

Lobbying has resulted in changes by Maf, which she described as workable.

The changes include a new definition of tree clearance to include spraying with a herbicide intended to kill, harvesting, removal by mechanical means, burning or other human activity that kills a tree.

It also includes acknowledgement that a total kill may not be achieved.

"And, most importantly, there will be no financial liability incurred if the total area exempted is not cleared, or all the trees within the area are not killed before the end of the first commitment period."

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's senior programmes adviser, Ian Platt, said the process was designed to match local authority concerns with weed trees, but also [relieve] the liability from clearing trees planted before 1990.

Mr Platt said land managed by the Department of Conservation was also included in the policy and he said the department was well advanced in applying for an exemption.

"To need an exemption, the trees in the area in question must have been established before 1990.

"The forest area must be more than 2ha and must meet the definition of forest land in the ETS," he said.


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