N.Z. in lock down: DAY 36

Yesterday was DAY 36 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

But the economic environment that we need to move into post-COVID19 is not the old unsustainable, throw-away, biota demolishing monster of old. Not if the human world is to avoid early demise caused by inane decisions being made by powerful forces in spite of all the technology, all the knowledge and know how to the contrary. No. If the human world is to continue to grow and enhance itself the human’s that make that world possible much change.

Everything is there, except the political willpower to make that change. But it does not need to be like that.

The change I envisage is something that is not at all new in terms of what I espouse. I have long been a fan of green technology and know how. Whether it is hempcrete to replace concrete because the latter has a massive carbon footprint; the development of hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles; the extraction of gold, palladium and other valuable metals from e-waste for re-use, the future is green technology.

But it is not just technology, though sustained investment in that will be very useful. The economic recovery will need projects that can be started quickly and get lots of people back to work in a meaningful way. One such thing would be a complete overhaul of the insulation in New Zealand’s social housing stock, which would create a trade boom. The number of houses ready for use in that inventory is nowhere near adequate and so there is a need for new housing projects – Christchurch has an abandoned saleyard at Addington which have not been used for decades; and could accommodate dozens of one/two/three bedroom dwellings quite easily.

There are large scale planting projects that could be getting underway to replant poor quality land that is not practical for farming, building or grazing. To that end I support the Green Party request for $1 billion, which it proposes to use for a range of community funded initiatives. Native forests are very effective carbon sinks and suck up huge quantities, but without intervention to stop possums and other animals from destroying new plantings and stripping foliage, they might become net carbon emitters.

Some projects will be longer term and are quite ambitious. Which is why it is interesting to note the Green Party also has a plan for a $9 billion investment in the New Zealand railway network. In line with New Zealand’s commitment to dealing with climate change, the Greens intend to promote railways as an alternative to the heavy investment in motorways. New Zealand has 1,067mm track gauges, which are similar to some used in Japan for fast trains that can reach speeds of 160km/h. Whilst expensive, the speed of the trains would enable people and goods to reach places nearly twice as fast as a vehicle obeying the 100km/h speed limit.

But as I said at the start, this all comes down to will power. The money is there – the Government has an unprecedented license to spend at the moment. The projects are there and some are shovel ready, whilst others are probably no further than back of the envelope calculations that look promising, and still more are ones that should have been done yonks ago.

So, who is going to give the go-ahead for these projects to get started and get New Zealand back to work?



Rebuilding forestry in New Zealand

Re-establishing the New Zealand Forestry Service is a noble move. As one of the larger primary industries in New Zealand, having a purpose built agency to maintain our forests in a sustainable manner is a no brainer. With a plan to plant 1 billion trees over the next several years, the likes of Carter Holt Harvey and other major companies with an interest in timber need to be on board.

Perhaps also the Forestry service can stop more events like the recent flood in Tolaga Bay, Gisborne where clear felling in a plantation left a slope overly exposed. The slope then failed disastrously during prolonged heavy rain and swept mud, floodwaters and timber debris through several properties. Could a forestry agency with oversight have foreseen the danger and taken steps to mitigate it? Quite possibly.

There are not only potential economic gains to be had, but also biological gains. Plantation forestry has been found to support a wide range of biodiversity on its floor. This has been found in the Kaingaroa Plantation on the volcanic plateau of the central North Island where pumiceous soils readily support pinus radiata.

In terms of climate change, whilst the pledge to plant 1 billion trees is very welcome, little has been revealed about how, when and where this is going to happen. Who is going to fund it; do the work; source the appropriate trees. So, I have come up with a solution:

  1. Give prisoners at Rangipo and other rural prisons something to do by getting them to plant the trees – in return this may contribute towards rewards such as extra visits; more R&R time inside the prison grounds and so forth
  2. Buy back land that is too damaged or unstable as a result of hydrothermal activity, or man made activity to be built or developed on and stabilize it with some sort of plantation
  3. Talk to Iwi about possibly allowing them to have buy-in into the forestry
  4. If economically permissible build a railway line to somewhere like Kawerau to get the logs onto rail and sent straight to the Port of Tauranga
  5. Examine whether restoration of native forest can lead to a minor scale logging operation, acknowledging the value of our Totara, Kauri, Rimu and Rata

At least one of these plantations should be a large carbon sink to soak up as much of New Zealand’s carbon based gas emission as possible. Whilst carbon emission trading schemes have constantly run into political or economic problems, perhaps that is more because the politicians and economists are not looking at the larger picture – politicians primary jobs are to represent their constituents and get the best deal possible for them (and of course get re-elected); economists as their titles suggest are better trained to look at the picture from the perspective of how it will affect a country’s economic performance.

Whilst one might say, that is where environmentalists step in, and it is, again, they are advocates. I guess one could say the same for the planners caught in the cross fire, but planners have to look at the overall picture and weigh up the differing arguments. In this case, is a National Policy Statement or other planning instrument on Forestry needed? I think so. No such instrument specific to forestry exists at the moment and having one would enable regional councils to give direction on how they envisage related.