Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is denying that the Government is backtracking over its goal to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years, saying it was always going to be in partnership with the private sector.
Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told the National Business Review today that the Government was going to plant about half of the 1 billion trees, while the private sector would plant the rest.
"[The one billion goal] is not something that is going to be pursued in isolation from the industry. If we work together, if they continue with their 50 million [a year] over 10 years and we continue with 50 million [a year] over 10 years, you get to a billion."
National's regional development spokesman Simon Bridges said the Government was backtracking.
"So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive. This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target.
"All he will do is displace existing private sector activity. The forestry industry should tell him he's dreaming."
But Ardern told reporters today the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.
"We've always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we're supporting the planting of those trees."
She pointed to Air New Zealand's announcement yesterday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.
"This is about partnership. Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted ... many of which will be planted by Government, many of which will be planted with the support of Government," Ardern said.
"It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector ... this is a collaborative approach."