Forestry Minister Shane Jones admitted to the AM Show that he’s struggling to find enough land to plant the billion trees he promised:
“The Government in this context is not going to go into the business of buying land.
“There is a lot of land out there – [but] the farmers are leery [and] the Māori often find it difficult to agree, as you’re seeing in Waitangi.”
The Government will only boost the current 50 million trees bring planted annually by 10 percent this year, Mr Jones says. That would bring the total to 55 million – well short of the target.
“It’s not realistic to say it can be done exclusively by the Government,” Mr Jones says, adding it was “always a target for the industry”.
The billion trees was supposed to be policy, National MPs Simon Bridges and Nick Smith say it looks more like a mirage.
We learnt on Friday that Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is now hoping to plant just five million extra trees this year,” Regional Development Spokesperson Mr Bridges says.
“At 5 million trees a year, it would take 200 years to achieve a billion trees. I know Mr Jones is not the hardest worker but stretching a ten year target out to 200 years would be an impressive under-achievement even for him.”
Forestry Spokesperson Nick Smith says this back down on the flagship forestry policy is hugely embarrassing and damaging to the Government’s economic and environmental credibility.
“The Government initially promised 100 million extra trees per year. This was then cut in half by including 50 million trees already being planted each year. The latest back down further reduces the new planting planned for this year to only five million,” Mr Smith says.
“The new target for 2018 is now no different from what is already happening. An average of 55 million trees were planted each year over the last seven years, increasing to 62.5 million in 2016, the last year of full data. The Minister’s new promise of 55 million trees being planted this year is barely any promise at all.”
Mr Bridges says this change in target is on top of plans to change the overseas investment rules so the values of forest investments drop significantly. That will only decrease forest plantings.
“We are three months in and not a single tree has been planted – so the Government is around 24 million trees behind target already. . .
You can’t plant trees in thin air.
There might be some land in the conservation estate that would be suitable for planting and there might be some land on Landcorp farms where forestry is an option.
But even with that, the government hasn’t got enough land for all the trees it’s promised nor has it the money to buy more for forestry.
That leaves the bulk of the planting up to farmers and other private individuals and businesses who for very good reason are wary about putting their money into enterprises based on a government policy which looks more like a mirage than a sound investment.