Streams Drying Up Under Onslaught of Pine Trees

by Ben Hope

Late last year, research commissioned by Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), found 54 percent of New Zealanders want carbon farming, i.e planting pine trees where fossil fuel emissions can be offset with new pine forests, to be strongly limited. Relating to this was that over 65 per cent of people oppose foreign companies buying New Zealand farms to offset their emissions by planting monocultures of pines. Under the lax foreign investment rules, foreign speculators get approval with ease.

Other statistics from research late 2022 shows more than 52,000ha of land was purchased by forestry interests in 2021 – a 36 percent increase on the previous two years and up from 7,000ha in 2017. Since then, more land has been purchased by foreign speculators.

While government has done nothing to address public concerns, the purpose of carbon farming, i.e. converting productive sheep and beef farms to pines, has already been achieved. Beef + Lamb (B+LNZ) says this is far more than the 25,000ha a year of exotics that the Climate Change Commission has suggested are needed to achieve New Zealand’s climate change objectives.

B+LNZ is forecasting significant economic damage to New Zealand’s red meat sector, rural communities and the economy as a result of the conversion of productive land into carbon farms. “However, the scale of change is far in excess of what is needed, and the Climate Change Commission agrees with us on this. This will have significant long-term implications for rural communities and the wider New Zealand economy.”

Research also showed that 61 percent of people support greater incentives to plant native forests over pine trees. 

Government Snoozes

New Zealand is currently the only country in the world to allow 100 percent offsetting of fossil fuel emissions within the ETS. The European Union only allows 10 percent and California (US) eight percent. 

The New Zealand Government seems asleep.

This relates to rivers and streams. How much water does a pine tree drink a day? The basic rule for drinking pine is 10 gallons of water for every single inch of tree diameter. That means a 12-inch plant will absorb nearly 120 gallons of water. There are also records that average pine trees can absorb up to 150 gallons of water a day when there is unlimited water.

Dry Streams

Where pines have been planted in watersheds, streams often run dry whereas before pines, there was year round flow.  The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers warned – five years ago – that the issue of encouraging and allowing monocultures of pines needed to stop. At the time the Labour-led coalition government had embarked on its “billion trees” programme. NZFFA called for caution and foresight in the new government’s ambitious “one million trees” policy so as to avoid monocultures of pines.

NZFFA said monocultures of pine trees in many parts of New Zealand had been an environmental disaster with depleted stream flows and heavy deposition off logs, slash and silt into rivers, coastlines and estuaries following clear felling logging.

The Federation said the emphasis should be strongly on native trees, and not pines.

P1040661 2.jpeg

This stream flowed all year round with a consistent flow to make it a valuable spawning stream and a quality fishing water.

Pines were planted decades ago and now the stream is virtually dry in summer and increasingly so as the growing pines 

increasingly take water. The basic rule for drinking pine is 10 gallons of water for every single inch of tree diameter. That 

means a 12-inch plant will absorb nearly 120 gallons of water. There are also records that average pine trees can absorb 

up to 150 gallons of water a day when there is unlimited water.

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8 Responses to Streams Drying Up Under Onslaught of Pine Trees

  1. "Twig and Tweet" says:

    The detrimental effects of pine monocultures goes further than the disastrous excessive extraction of water from the ecosystem and drying up of streams. Acidification of soils and runoff means invertebrates populations are lessened with less staple food for trout and native fish, much increased runoff compared to native vegetation, wilding pines spread (a major problem in high country), loss of biological diversity etc

  2. Morry Watkins says:

    On the previous comment, the ill effects go into the socio-economic area with loss of employment on farms which have been converted to pines for carbon trading, closure of rural communities etc.,
    But the point of the article is loss of water from the catchments and consequentially dry river and stream beds which will serve as mute reminders of the short-sightedness of governments.
    Labour in 2017 – and the Greens and NZ First – pledged to clean up rivers. They have done nothing. Under “the onslaught” of pine monoculture there will be no water to ‘clean up.’ In any case, Labour has failed to honour its pledge. So have the Greens.
    So where do National and Act stand on this? Don’t hold your breath.

  3. Kathy says:

    Quote: “Research also showed that 61 percent of people support greater incentives to plant native forests over pine trees.”

    There are multiple benefits with native forests, including food for many species of wildlife. Not so much with pine. However, people are quick to drop 1080 in pine forests, to protect their “assets” from the occasional grazing possum, especially when a government department subsidises its use. Not only does the water get sucked up rapidly by pines, but toxins get dropped in our waterways by groups like OSPRI and DOC. A double whammy.

    Sadly everyone’s out for a buck rather than choosing to do the right thing. “Minimise harm” should be the words that guide them. Not $$$$.

  4. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    There is a certain likeness of a dog chasing tail syndrome at work here, as the madness of planting pines to save the world and drying up waterways results as unintended consequences.
    One is reminded of that great Disney animation of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice “.Where the more the effort was redoubled. The worse the problem got in an ever increasing endless whirling spiral to destructive oblivion.
    Mass planting of pines is an answer for nothing & pulls productive farm land out of production to the detriment of everything.

  5. "Eco-sense" says:

    I couldn’t agree more Bud Jones-Jones.
    Carbon farming is so ecologically destructive. Streams will run dry as the pine trees with an insatiable thirst for water, grow in size and suck more and more water from the ecosystem.
    The corporate owners ban public access – well to 99% of the public, their mates excluded. So Outdoor-loving Kiwis are denied access.
    The forest industry is 80% foreign owned now. I suspect the carbon farming “industry” has a foreign ownership 90% or above?

  6. Charles Baycroft says:

    Does no-one understand that the total “emmissions” produced by New Zealand are such a small percentage of the global total that nothing we do here has or will have any significant effect on the global climate?

    The way in which someone decided to calculate the sequestration of carbon by plants also excludes a very significant perventage of the vegetation in New Zealand.

    The truth, if allowed to be told” is probably that the people of New Zealand are contribute nothing to the climate change concerns, even is the narrative is valid.

    The NZ government zero carbon legislation will achive nothing for the the people of New Zealand or the planet but it will have crippling costs for the people of New Zealand.

    The real basis for this legislation if the desire of some of our political celebrities to virtue signal and pretend that they are achiving some control of the global climate.
    This focus on climate change also helps to divert our attention from the failure of these incompetent employees of ours to achieve success in any of the projects they have undertaken at our great expense.

    Climate change is not a problem for ordinary working people there is nothing significant that we can do about it in New Zealand so we should stop this carbon zero nonesense now.

    There are real and serious problems like decent jobs, affordable homes, crime, dysfunctional medical and education systems, unpayable debt, escalating living costs and predatory bureaucracies that need attention but are being ign0red because our celebrity politicians and bureaucrats do not understand or have any ability to deal with them.

    Perhaps people are starting to wake up and realize that all of this politically correct, woke, virtue signalling nonesense is foollish and detrimental to their wellbeing and futures.

    The resignation of Ms Ardern could be an indication that the people are becoming aware that they are being poorly served and misinformed by the people they pay to work in their government.

  7. Keith Hawkins says:

    The thing i cant figure out is why do farmers who go on about losing productive land go on selling to forestry companies

  8. J B Smith says:

    It’s money Keith. Perhaps farmers near retirement see it as an opportunity? Point is farmers are doing nothing wrong. It’s the government who sets the system up. Government has encouraged overseas corporate investors and they made the rules easy for them to come in and buy up. The Green Parety who have given up environmental issues and are into engineering society and are part of government should know better. So should Labour party. Who do I vote for later this year?

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