Govt is counting on conservationists to plant trees – with $6.6m encouragement

We use taxes to grow trees – axes are for bringing them down.

The headline on a press statement that came our way was rich with possibilities: TREES THAT COUNT SET TO GROW THROUGH PROVINCIAL GROWTH FUND SUPPORT

Trees that count – we mused – could be gainfully employed keeping tabs on Forestry Minister Shane Jones’ performance as he sets out on his mission to have a billion trees planted.

Trees that count might be useful in the Treasury, too, which was embarrassed (or should have been) by the recent findings of an independent review into a coding error that affected child-poverty projections given to the Government in December 2017.

But no. It quickly became apparent Trees That Count is a conservation outfit which, the  press statement advised, was gearing up to push its programme with the help of a $6.6 million grant from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, as part of the Billion Trees programme.

Mind you, a bit of tree counting (of the number-tallying sort) will be needed there, too, for an accounting of their use of the grant:

Trees That Count’s goal is to mobilise New Zealanders to fund, plant and count the survival of 200 million new native trees over the next 10 years.

Trees That Count has been funded and supported to date by The Tindall Foundation and, more recently, with business and public donations.

Crown support will enable the organisation to extend its community outreach and provide more training, resources and support to planting groups throughout New Zealand, said Joris de Bres, Chair of the Project Crimson Trust, the well-established conservation organisation behind Trees That Count.

“We’ll also be able to target our efforts to attract further funding from the business sector to help planters increase their work.  We’re keen to see as many companies and individuals as possible funding native trees for community projects.”

Trees That Count recently launched an online community Marketplace which matches tree funding with planting groups who want more native trees to increase their work.

More than 140,000 native trees have been funded or gifted so far.

The organisation also keeps track of and maps the number of native trees planted in New Zealand.

Announcing the $6.6 million grant over three years, Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the Government wanted everyone – children, mums and dads, grandparents, teenagers, iwi and private businesses – to be part of the nationwide native tree planting movement as part of the One Billion Trees programme.

He also said:

“Trees That Count will support the development of educational resources, skills and employment for communities. Training is being developed with NorthTec, a local iwi and their plant nursery. Six regional advisors will be employed to train and connect land owners, tree funders and planting groups.

“This is about more than an investment in trees – it’s an investment in people, our regional communities and our environment,” Shane Jones said.

At the same time as he was announcing the grant to Trees that Count, Jones (as Regional Economic Development Minister) and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis were announcing Provincial Growth Fund support for schemes to help young ex-offenders get driver’s licences and help inmates develop Mānuka and Kānuka products.

The press statement said:

“The Northland Region Corrections Facility and the Ngāti Rangi Ahu Whenua Trust will be funded by up to $70,000 from PGF and $23,000 from the Department of Corrections to undertake a feasibility study of the potential for producing Mānuka and Kānuka oil and other products,” said Kelvin Davis.

“Establishing an oil distillery, likely to be in Kaikohe, will provide training and long-term employment opportunities for the local community and inmates at the Northland Region Corrections Facility. I’m confident this will help reduce reoffending over time.”

Splendid. But why not recruit prisoners in planting the trees first?

The more the merrier, when a billion trees must be planted  – and when they have been planted they can learn how to extract the oil from them.

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