Farmers have been conscripted to dig in to assist with Shane Jones' plan for a billion trees to be planted over the next 10 years.

The Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS) and joint ventures with landowners are two mechanisms in place to assist the coalition Government's billion-tree planting programme, Forestry New Zealand head Julie Collins told Northland sheep and beef farmers.

Grant schemes would be reviewed next year year to help the billion trees programme proceed through 2019 and beyond, she said.

The coalition Government had committed to set up standalone Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) business units dealing with forestry, fisheries, food safety and biosecurity. Minister for Forestry Shane Jones will be formally launching Forestry NZ on May 11.

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'The growing of new forests in New Zealand declined from 55,000ha planted annually in the 1990s to just 3000ha in 2014.'

Speaking during a recent field day at former Beef + Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons' farm in the Tangowahine Valley, Collins said the Government's key drivers for the big planting programme were how to use forestry to create regional economic development and how to integrate forestry into more sustainable land use, including protecting the environment and making it more resilient to climate change.

Forestry NZ head Julie Collins tells Northland farmers how they can participate in the billion tree planting programme.
Forestry NZ head Julie Collins tells Northland farmers how they can participate in the billion tree planting programme.

The number of seedlings available would limit planting this year, but farmers would be encouraged to plant both native and exotic species including redwood, totara, eucalyptus, douglas fir, manuka and radiata, with Forestry NZ working with landowners to help get the right trees in the right sites.

The AGS is designed to help establish 15,000ha of new forest in New Zealand between 2015 and 2020. The growing of new forests in New Zealand declined from 55,000ha planted annually in the 1990s to just 3000ha in 2014.

To help reverse this trend, MPI is providing grants of $1300/ha for growers to plant new small to medium-sized forests — 5-300 hectares. Larger sites would be considered by MPI on a case by case basis. Up to $19.5 million is available until 2020.

The AGS aims to reduce soil erosion — MPI estimates 1.1 million hectares of land is at serious risk of erosion. Increased forestry is also intended to improve land-use productivity, boost regional economic development, store carbon and improve water quality.

Applications for the AGS 2018 funding round close on May 14. To apply, go to mpi.govt.nz/ ... /12097-2017-afforestation-grant-scheme-application-form.

Collins also encouraged landowners to get in touch with MPI (funding@mpi.govt.nz) if they were looking at planting, but were unsure their plans would fit with the AGS.

She said joint ventures were being discussed with more than 40 private landowners who had each expressed interest in plantation pine planting on more than 200ha.

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The Emissions Trading Scheme carbon price of around $21 a tonne was also creating interest in tree planting.