Shane Jones has been defending what some have called unseemly haste regarding the first pines in the ground in the "one billion trees" project.

At an announcement on Tuesday about another Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) coming Northland's way, the Regional Economic Development Minister referred to the first forest scheme coming unstuck.

The first "billion trees" project aimed at planting forests on idle and Māori land, this one in partnership with Ngati Hine Forestry Trust and four neighbouring hapu, has gone on hold due to much of the land being unfit for planting pine seedlings.

Read more: Tree seedlings worth $160,000 'mulched' after forestry land found to be choked with scrub


"We're not planting trees in the Garden of Eden here,'' Jones said. ''This is perilous, tough country that is hardly user-friendly and you would expect some challenges. It's still going to happen."

He had been assured by the hapu partners the land was being prepared for planting, he said. Of the original million seedlings plan, under 200,000 are likely to be planted this year.

Jones has also recently come under fire from political critics for the amount of PGF funding that has been allocated to Northland.

Asked if he expected another hail of bullets about the Tai Tokerau-born and bred minister funding another local project, he said: "It comes with the territory."

Jones hinted at a degree of youthful exuberance in getting the very young PGF scheme under way when that first-off-the-block Māori forestry and PGF partnership was signed.
The first seedling was ceremoniously planted in May, in a proposed 1100ha pine forest in rugged country southeast of Kaikohe.

"I asked people to be ambitious and enthusiastic," Jones said about inviting prospective PGF business cases when the fund was launched.

"We're a government that made a commitment to making a billion dollar fund and boosting the regions.

"We decided to be bold, be decisive and get on with things.''


He said he was disappointed about the bad start to the Ngati Hine and associated hapu forestry plan.