Brian Fallow writes at the New Zealand Herald:
Deforestation intentions have soared as the emissions trading scheme, at least at current rock-bottom prices, is no longer seen as a barrier to switching to other land uses.
A survey of large forest owners (with over 10,000ha) by Professor Bruce Manley of Canterbury University has found they intend to deforest 39,000ha between now and 2020, mainly in the central North Island and mainly to switch to dairy farming.
They represent three-quarters of the plantation forests with trees older than 20 years, which are likely to be harvested within the next eight years.
Assuming smaller forest owners only replant 80 per cent of the forests they harvest in the same period, the total area deforested would be 55,000ha or 12 per cent of the area of plantation forest maturing in that period.
On an annual basis it would represent only a modest increase on deforestation over the past five years – the period of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period, through which forest owners have had liabilities under the ETS.