Climate Rules stump DOC -by David Williams, The Press

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has suspended control of wilding pine trees while the Government fixes a climate-change "mistake".

DOC has been hit with an $811,000 "liability" under the emissions trading scheme because it cut down 53 hectares of pre-1990 trees.

The liability for other organisations councils, charitable trusts and conservation organisations runs into millions.

Owners of pre-1990 forests have to buy carbon credits if they cut down large areas of trees under climate-change legislation because forests offset greenhouse-gas emissions.

Legislation does not recognise the difference between natives and weeds, such as wilding pines.

Conservation officer Keith Briden said the department had suspended plans to cut down a further 200ha of mature wilding pines.

"That's not a problem because we've got plenty of post-1990 forests to cut," he said.

Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman said carbon payments on Mid Dome about 250ha of wilding pines in Southland, near Queenstown, planted by the Government over decades to stop soil erosion could reach $3 million.

"On top of the cost of cutting down the trees, we'd also have to pay carbon charges, which can put the economics of the project at risk," he said.

Environment Canterbury senior resource care co-ordinator David Hewson said high-country areas had values other than helping soak up climate change emissions.

"We wouldn't solve the Kyoto Protocol [by leaving pest trees], but in the meantime we would have lost a huge biodiversity resource by letting it go," he said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said changes to the emissions trading scheme legislation, introduced yesterday, would remove the problem.

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