Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis says that almost a million seedlings that were not planted for a Government-backed forestry project will not be wasted because there is plenty of other land that can be used.
It ordered about 1,100,000 seedlings, but the number that could be planted collapsed to 191,000 because the land was too choked with scrub and weeds.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has yet to put a dollar figure on the cost to taxpayers, but market rates for seedlings put the cost of the order at about $400,000.
The deal between the Crown and the Far North's Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust was trumpeted by the Beehive as the first Crown joint venture in the One Billion Trees programme.
But Davis said that there was plenty of quality land in the Far North and the seedlings would not be wasted.
"I've seen land planted and pine trees up there that you couldn't barely get a bulldozer through, but the trees get planted and they still grow," Davis told Newstalk ZB.
"I don't think it'll be wastage. I think that we can still make use of other land. We've still got plenty of land to be planted on up there."
Davis conceded that the Government would not "get everything right straight away" as it strives to plant one billion trees over 10 years.
"But at the end of the day, we'll still get our billion trees in the ground."
The $32m joint venture with the Crown over more than 20 years means the trust now has funding to plant about 3600ha with pine and about 500ha with mānuka. The deal is intended to return $63m to the Crown at harvest.
A report on May 4 told Regional Development Minister Shane Jones that officials met with Ngāti Hine "on site" and fewer seedlings would be planted than had been hoped.
"Early indications are that the area planted in 2018 will be less than half of the 1100ha originally indicated as a consequence of the degree of weed and scrub regrowth on sites harvested as many as six years ago."
On June 8, a week after the deal had been formally signed, Jones was told: "Seedlings have been procured for the 1100ha planting programme for 2018, but it looks as if that area of land will not be available. We will actively seek to place the purchased seedlings elsewhere for the 2018 planting season."
Jones told the Herald the Ngāti Hine deal could be said to have suffered from eagerness and too much enthusiasm.
"I've been given a job to do. I've got three years to roll out planting of 23,000ha. I did not shirk from being very eager and ambitious."
He said it was known "some of the land was going to be a challenge" because years had passed since it had been planted.
Jones said he had a "clear conscience" as to the "moral purpose" behind the deal, which would see investment go into an area which needed support. "It's a part of the north that's been neglected too long."
Te Uru Rakau (Forestry NZ) boss Julie Collins said "phasing" of planting was always going to happen "once we were able to get in post-signing and being able to do a more intensive assessment of the property".
"We made a best guess around what we thought we would get planted this year."
MPI's Crown forestry general manager Warwick Foran said several of the seedlings ordered had been diverted to other projects. Seedlings which had not been collected from nurseries had to be paid for.