Pāmu Farms of New Zealand (Landcorp) is one of the first red meat farmers to make a start on the coalition government’s one billion tree planting programme aimed at meeting New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Climate Accord.
The state-owned-enterprise will plant up to 1,000 hectares of land in the 2018 winter, says Pāmu chief executive Steve Carden.
“Pāmu has been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to finalise commercial terms that will see up to 2,000 hectares of forest being planted in 2018 and 2019,” he says.
“As New Zealand’s largest farmer, we have always seen forestry as an important part of our strategic direction – from a commercial as well as an environmental and sustainability perspective.
“This government’s forestry programme fits well with our own strategic direction in forestry and we are pleased to support the Government’s forestry initiatives.
“Forestry is an often overlooked but essential part of New Zealand’s agriculture sector. It makes sense to be planting trees on rural land whose use has changed or is marginal. Farmers have been doing this for years, recognising that it is good for the environment, and for the economic activity it brings to rural New Zealand.
“We will continue to assess other land that may be viable for ongoing forestry planting in future years, which is something we do on an continuing basis,” Carden says.
While the final terms are still to be finalised, Pāmu says as a State-Owned-Enterprise it must always operate in a commercial manner.
“The commercial terms we are working on with the MPI will meet both the needs of the Government and ourselves – it is win-win,” says Carden.
”With the very real challenges New Zealand agriculture is facing from climate change, planting trees as part of an overall New Zealand response to global warming also makes sense, and is long overdue.”
Pāmu has almost 10,000 hectares planted in a range of trees. The mix of trees to be planted are still to be finalised, as are the locations, however Northland and East Coast/Hawke’s Bay regions along with some South Island farmland are under consideration.
The start of the billion-tree-planting scheme was announced by Minister of Forestry Shane Jones last week in Gisborne, with the first areas of land needed for Crown Forestry planting this winter committed. The programme will benefit New Zealand’s provinces, environment and people, he said.
“It is a big boost for the forestry sector and will create more jobs and training opportunities to provinces that have been doing it tough for a while.”
Jones predicts planting will boost rapidly as land is procured, seedlings are grown, private investment is stimulated and infrastructure is developed.
“All of this combined will see us go from 55 million trees this year, to 70 million a year in 2020, to 90 million in 2021. From there we will be aiming for 110 million a year over the next seven years of the programme.”
Planting will include both exotics – such as pinus radiata – and natives, the Minister says.
Afforestation grants could be over-subscribed
The news has been welcomed by the Forest Owners Association (FOA), amongst others, which has said the announcement of the timetable will give confidence that massive afforestation is a serious proposition.
FOA president Peter Clark says there are plenty of sceptics who believe that the government will not get to the billion tree target over ten years.
“A billion trees represents 100,000 hectares of plantings per year on average. The effective planting start-up year, with seedlings started off this winter, will be 2019.
“So, first up, 70,000 hectares represents a good beginning to grow the national forest estate which has been static for nearly 20 years.”
Peter Clark says he predicts the also announced $6.5 million fund for Afforestation Grants will be over subscribed.
“At $1,300 per hectare the grant will cover the total planting costs for most landowners who choose to go into it. I would also hope the scheme can be expanded in future years.”
“The scheme applies to forest plots between five and 300 hectares. This could lead to too many isolated woodlots, but if farmers amalgamated their plots it would pay off in reduced harvesting costs.”
Peter Clark says he expects the next stage of the billion tree project will be to provide details of the planned species and geographical mix.
“Millable indigenous species, such as totara and beech are obviously going to be part of the mix, along with others planted to convert grassland into native forestland. But if forest plantings are to help with reducing the pain of meeting our Paris Accord commitments then we will need fast-growing exotics such as radiata pine, Douglas fir and eucalypts. It is never too early to start providing for what will be required to manage, harvest and process large volumes of these tree species.”