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The Government’s Billion Trees scheme is a disaster waiting to happen for rural communities in Southland, Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says.

“This Government policy will see the destruction of rural areas in Southland, as farms are sold and planted in to trees,” Mr Walker says.

“Communities lose valuable people, who are on school boards, involved in local sports clubs and other community organisations.”

“It’s not only them gone though, as the local contractor, the shearing gang and other ag-related businesses all lose work.”

“We know what blanket afforestation does to communities, all we have to do is look at the Tahakopa Valley.”

“Once a community with many farming families, and a school role of 30, is now covered in trees with only six pupils now attending the school.”

“There is also a huge risk to biodiversity with wilding pines, in particular in the Douglas Fir variety which seems popular in large-scale plantings.”

“If you look at the work the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust has had to do to date to begin to get wilding pines under control in areas of Southland, you can see the devastation that can be caused.”

“Afforestation most definitely has its part to play in our communities but it is about right tree, right place, not blanket plantings of those which will grow the fastest.”

“We need to protect our rural communities and our biodiversity and the Government’s Billion Trees Scheme is the complete opposite of what is needed.”

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