I welcome a renewed mandate for Crown Forestry to enable it to kick-start the Government’s tree planting programme.
The Cabinet has given the green light to allow Crown Forestry to enter into new commercial arrangements to plant trees on privately-owned land and to provide $14 million of funding to support the planting of trees next year and the purchase of seedlings for 2019.
The ambitious one billion trees planting programme is one of the Government’s cornerstone policies. It will help encourage regional economic growth, create sustainable, high-quality jobs, provide opportunities for Māori to develop their land, help meet our climate change targets and support more sustainable use of land, water and other natural resources.
Initial projections indicate that the planting of one billion trees over 10 years could lead to between 10 and 30 million tonnes of additional carbon dioxide removals.
Quick action has been required by the Government to ensure Crown Forestry can purchase seedlings from nursery stock and get planting during the winter season.
While there are limited surplus radiata pine seedlings available for 2018, discussions with members of the New Zealand Forest Nursery Growers Association have indicated that nurseries have the ability to scale up significantly for the 2019 planting season.
In addition to the trees that Crown Forestry will plant, work is under way to determine the potential to boost the number of native trees planted as well as ensuring that the number of trees being planted can be accurately counted.
Crown Forestry has the capability and connections with landowners in the regions to get new forestry plantings underway immediately.
Work is also under way to develop a comprehensive afforestation programme that takes various issues into account, including the supply of labour, improving the Emissions Trading Scheme for forestry and afforestation and incentivising land use.
Establishing Forestry Service
This is the first in many milestones in the tree planting programme. As further work is progressed to establish a Forestry Service, I will take proposals back to Cabinet covering the more fundamental considerations on future funding for Crown Forestry, its role and governance structure.
Crown Forestry is a business unit and administers the Crown’s residual interest in a range of commercial forestry assets, primarily Crown land that is subject to a Waitangi Tribunal Claim or leased Maori-owned land.
Crown Forestry manages 16 forests with a combined value of $172 million, six afforestation leases and three registered Forestry Encouragement Loans.
Shane Jones is Forestry Minister of New Zealand.