Two Northland bodies will plant 2843 hectares of trees as part of the Government's One Billion Trees programme, a move that Forestry Minister Shane Jones says will provide much-needed jobs and social benefits.
The Government's One Billion Trees programme is realising economic, environmental and social benefits across regional New Zealand through its forestry joint venture agreements, just a year after it was launched, Jones said when announcing the latest joint ventures.
A total of 21 joint ventures have been signed between Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) – the lead agency of the programme - and landowners across the country.
The latest joint ventures to be signed are with Kaipara-based hapu Te Uri o Hau, which will see 2843 hectares of plantation forestry planted on the Pouto Peninsula in Kaipara; and Tapuwae Inc, covering up to 800 hectares in the Tapuwae Forest in Hokianga.
"Te Uri o Hau is the second largest planting initiative for the One Billion Trees Programme to date," Jones said.
"This brings the total planting area across joint ventures to 13,000 hectares – over halfway to our total of 24,000 hectares. These agreements are seeing planting and silviculture jobs created that weren't there before, they're offering landowners, including Māori, the ability to diversify income and improve land productivity, and they're creating real environmental and social benefits too.
"We are seeing a huge amount of goodwill and interest, with over 260 enquiries from a wide range of landowners and a further 35 properties totalling 10,000ha currently under negotiation. Along with these joint ventures, the new One Billion Trees Fund launched in November is offering simple and direct grants to landowners who are looking to integrate trees into their landscapes with over 700 enquiries to the fund.''
He said the wider One Billion Trees goal to plant at least one billion trees by 2028 is an ambitious one, but is a commitment from the Government to drive regional revitalisation and deliver benefits to our people and our environment.
"It also supports Māori to realise the potential of their land," Jones said.
The programme is starting to pay dividends in Northland, with 20 young men from Kaikohe and Moerewa last month starting the new Nga Mahuri o Ngati Hine Manuka Plantation Training Programme, where they will earn while they learn.
They will start their journey as forestry industry trainees in the first part of a two-year programme funded by the One Billion Trees fund through Te Uru Rakau and supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries Economic Development Unit.
The first foray into the One Billion Trees project didn't go exactly to plan after it was revealed that $160,000 worth of pine seedlings had to be mulched instead of planted in
Northland because the land had not been prepared.
The seedlings were part of a $32 million deal with the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust. About 1.2 million seedlings were bought, but only 200,000 could be planted because scrub had not been cleared. The remainder were sent elsewhere - or mulched.
Ngati Hine took the blame for failing to ensure the land was ready.