The Government has made another pitch for the Maori vote (presumably with borrowed money) by dipping into the One Billion Trees trough.
It has proclaimed it is backing Maori landowners with this contribution to their wellbeing (and the environment’s) and it is fair to suppose it would appreciate the landowners backing it in return on election day.
Whether such backing might be expressed in electoral support for Labour or New Zealand First is a matter for conjecture, but the announcement was made by Forestry Minister Shane Jones, a prominent and generous benefactor from the New Zealand First side of the coalition.
He announced up to $1.69 million will be provided through the One Billion Trees programme to Māori landowners to make their land more productive through the planting of forests, “both native and exotic”, and improve economic and environmental outcomes.
Around 1.5 million ha of land in New Zealand is in Māori ownership, Jones pointed out, but large tracts are returning little direct commercial value to Māori landowners, “nor much in the way of positive climate, soil, water or biodiversity outcomes”.
So what have the owners done to this land to rob it of positive climate, soil, water or biodiversity outcomes? Or did the land never generate much of those environmental benefits?
All we are told in Jones’ press statement is that about 500,000ha of Māori-owned land are already in some form of forest cover and a further 200,000ha is potentially suitable for afforestation.
” … but it does present unique challenges for owners who might be considering forestry ventures and for potential investors.”
The funding through One Billion Trees (1BT), is intended to help provide support and advice to help Māori landowners build confidence, skills and knowledge about forestry, as well as increase investor confidence to partner with Māori,” Shane Jones said.
A material aim of the work will be the conversion of 20,000ha of Māori-owned land to forestry ventures (commercial exotic, carbon or native).
Jones reckons this will deliver between $25m and $40m in increased earnings, 120 direct and 200 indirect jobs, 7.6m tonnes of carbon sequestered and improvement in soil erosion rates and water quality,” Shane Jones said.
The work will be led by Te Kapunga Dewes, a recognised Māori leader in the forestry sector and recent chief executive of PF Olsen.
“Mr Dewes brings the necessary mana and industry expertise needed for this venture to be successful. It will be set up to empower Māori landowners to make better decisions about their land, with a focus on building a strong understanding of the opportunities that forestry provides, and to build investor confidence in partnerships.”
The project is designed to promote key Government objectives for 1BT to increase Māori participation in forestry and to support Māori landowners in reaching their aspirations for their land.
The official statement is here –
The Government will provide up to $1.69 million through the One Billion Trees programme to Māori landowners to make their whenua more productive through the planting of forests, both native and exotic …