By Gavin Evans
April 5 (BusinessDesk) - The government has secured its second-largest forestry planting partnership as part of its one billion tree programme.
Te Uru Rakau – the Ministry of Primary Industries’ forestry arm – has agreed to joint venture with Kaipara-based Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust in the planting of 2,843 hectares of commercial forest on the Pouto Peninsula in coming years.
The scale of the planting, expected to start this year, is second only to the 2.1 million trees the Crown will help plant on 3,195 ha of Ngati Hine land, also in Northland. That work was to have started last year and is expected to continue beyond 2020.
The next largest project under the Crown partnership scheme covers 1,378 ha that the Accident Compensation Corporation is planting in Otaqo this year and the following two years, according to MPI data.
Te Uru Rakau has so far signed up 21 partnerships as part of the one billion tree programme. The collectively cover 13,460 ha, more than half the 24,000 ha Forestry Minister Shane Jones says is the target.
“These agreements are seeing planting and silviculture jobs created that weren’t there before,” he said in a statement.
“They’re offering landowners, including Maori, the ability to diversify income and improve land productivity, and they’re creating real environmental and social benefits too."
The partnership scheme has attracted more than 260 inquiries and planting of another 10,000 ha, across 35 properties, is currently under negotiation, he said.
Jones was in Northland today where he and Economic Development Minister David Parker also announced an investment by the Provincial Growth Fund of up to $18.5 million to investigate, and potentially develop, community-scale water storage projects in Kaipara and the mid-North.
Te Uri o Hau owns the 600 ha Rototuna Forest. It acquired the forest when Meridian Energy ended plans for a wind farm in the area and in 2017 granted cutting rights to China Forestry Group.
Officials said that, after allowing for land preparation, 300-500 ha of the new forest on the peninsula may be planted this year.
Also announced today was a Crown partnership with Tapuwae Inc. to plant to 800 hectares in the Tapuwae Forest in Hokianga. Between 100 and 200 ha of that planting is expected to get underway this year. That is the fourth-largest land area committed through partnerships.
MPI estimates the 21 partnerships agreed to date will see almost 11.7 million trees planted. The Crown’s investment, including land rent, forestry establishment, maintenance and harvest costs is estimated at $140.7 million.
About 57,000 ha of exotics were planted in New Zealand last year. To reach the government’s one billion trees by 2028 target – which also includes natives – that annual planting rate has to almost double and be sustained for a decade.
In February, Jones said increased private sector planting could see 1.4 billion trees planted by 2028.
To encourage that, the government has committed about $485 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, which it is using to complement existing Crown and council afforestation schemes.
Jones said there has also been more than 700 inquiries for the $118 million made available in November for direct grants to farmers and landholders for exotic planting, retirement for native regeneration and native planting.