UPDATED - Climate crime exposed

Feature story - October 28, 2008
Greenpeace took action against New Zealand's biggest contributor to climate change -- intensive corporate dairy farming.

TOKOROA, A Greenpeace activist locked on to logging equipment in Kinleith Forest to highlight the conversion of forestry land to intensive dairy.

TOKOROA, Greenpeace sends a clear message that conversion of forestry land to intensive dairy farms is a crime against the climate. c) GREENPEACE/COWPLAND

Two teams of activists halted a major conversion of forest land to dairy farming in the central North Island, locking on to forest logging equipment and using rotary hoes to plough 5m-high letters reading CLIMATE CRIME into fresh pasture.

UPDATE: The, the following day as the sun rose over sleepy Helensville, we unfurled a truckload of Ready-Lawn around the outside of National Party leader John Key's electorate office. Then came some pine trees, some two-dimensional cows and a smattering of stumps. Finally a billboard went up saying: "Would John solve this climate crime?" See the video and blog.

Greenpeace is calling for a halt to forest conversion for intensive dairy in light of the worsening global climate crisis.

The land being converted is part of the Kinleith Forest and is owned by Carter Holt Harvey. Twenty five thousand hectares is being cleared to make way for corporate mega farms.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, tens of thousands of hectares of forests have already been felled; another half million hectares is at risk - over seven times the size of Lake Taupo and a quarter of the nation's total forest plantation.

Dairy conversion of forestry land functions as a 'double whammy' on the climate; it destroys forests and replaces them with one of the most greenhouse gas intensive forms of land use.

New Zealand's agriculture sector already emits nearly 50 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions  and these emissions are growing dramatically. Deforestation for land conversion releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas. Emissions from the two largest corporate conversion projects in the Central North Island alone equate to the annual emissions from the Huntly coal fired power station.

Forests trap carbon beneath the soil and in trees. Like a sponge, they soak up carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere - the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. The world needs forests to 'soak up' greenhouse gases whilst we reduce emissions drastically.

What are the politicians saying?

The National Party has labeled rates of deforestation a "chainsaw massacre" but refuses to talk about one of the main drivers - corporate dairy farming - or offer up any real solutions. Little more than hot air so far.

The Labour Party says that the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme has put an end to the logging. This is demonstrably untrue, given the continued clearance and conversion of the Kinleith Forest to corporate dairy farms. ,

All serious political parties need to front up to the problem of intensive dairying and land conversion and commit to an immediate halt to the deforestation for dairy farming

What needs to happen?

Intensive dairy farming - and the associated deforestation - is killing the climate. There needs to be an immediate halt to further conversion of forests to pasture, and agriculture needs to be brought into the emissions trading scheme, to create a more level playing field (forestry entered the scheme in January 2008, making it more economic to chop down trees and replace them with farms).

New Zealand's two main political parties must also set an overall emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020.

What about farming - isn't it the backbone of NZ's economy?

We want New Zealand to be farming into the future. But the drive to large scale corporate farms undermines this. There is no advantage to farming intensively. It is bad for the climate, bad for the land, bad for animal welfare and bad for farmers' bottom lines.

There are better ways to farm and we have begun to outline some of the alternatives in our smart farming pages: www.greenpeace.org.nz/smartfarming


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