The Forest Owners Association has welcomed the Government's decicion to allocate a further $240 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to get more trees in the ground under the One Billion Trees programme.
But chief executive David Rhodes urged caution, saying that while the target was doable, there were challenges.
"A billion trees is possible. We have had those levels of planting in the past but I guess from our perspective some things have changed. The price now is a lot higher and we are certainly wanting to make sure this line that everyone keeps trotting out – the right trees in the right place are achieved."
"There's plenty of areas where we would say that's the wrong place to put trees or that's the wrong place to put that type of tree, so we've got to be a bit careful. What you don't want is to rush into achieving the number for the sake of it," he said.
Forestry Minister Shane Jones announced yesterday that a $118m grants scheme would enable private landowners, government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and iwi to apply for funds to cover the cost of planting and establishing trees and regenerating indigenous forest.
Separately, a new $120m three-year partnership fund would create a closer working relationship between Te Uru Rākau (the Forestry Service) and regional councils, NGOs, training organisations, Māori landowners and community groups.
The grants would result in around 60 million new trees being planted over the next three years, he said.
"This approach will allow us to leverage co-funding opportunities and existing know-how and experience," Jones said.
"We'll be looking at promoting innovation, securing sufficient labour to get trees in the ground and providing support and advice to landowners on how they can improve land use."
Forestry was a fundamental part of the Government's regional development programme and it was strengthening its support for planting in areas where there were limited commercial drivers for investment, and where wider social, environmental or regional development benefits could be achieved, Jones said.
Rhodes said the association would look forward to working with the Government to make sure the partnership deals that were done were good for the environment and the taxpayer.
National's economic and regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said Jones was "freaking out" and flinging money out the door.
"The overall impression is just a minister who's got this pile of money that he has to spend. He's freaking out that he won't be able to spend it all and he's flinging it out the door.
"We just don't know, there may be a bit of value in it but I'm sure there'll be a lot of waste as well. There's no way we can work out how much is of value and how much is of waste at the moment because they're not releasing any details," Goldsmith said.
He called for Jones to make public details of contracts settled so far to assure taxpayers that the money was going into good quality projects.
The latest announcement brings the total funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for the One Billion Trees Programme so far to about $485m.