Pine forest habitat in the Everglades, Florida Photo: Yinan Chen

New Zealand to plant one billion trees to fight climate change

August 24th, 2018

New Zealand has set a target to plant one billion trees over the next ten years in an effort to fight climate change, provide habitats for native species and enhance natural landscapes.

The plan has been boosted by an additional $240 million in funding from the government – taking its cost to nearly half a billion dollars over the next three years.

The funding will provide grants to landowners to cover the cost of planting and establishing trees and assisting with forest regeneration.

The scheme looks to encourage the planting of both permanent trees and forests that can be harvested in the future. The aim is to encourage the planting of natives, trees for erosion control, and environment-focused planting.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website says that it’s about looking at options for landowners to optimise the use of their land and how to make “afforestation economically viable and attractive for them.”

In order to achieve the goal, the MPI will encourage the government, landowners, commercial foresters, conservation groups and regional councils and communities to make a combined effort.

A combination of exotic and native tree species is expected to be planted on private, public, and Māori-owned land. Species that will be planted include radiata pine, redwood, totara, eucalyptus, Douglas fir and mānuka.

New Zealand’s Forestry Minister, Shane Jones, said that the government is strengthening support for planting in areas where there are currently “limited commercial drivers for investment”, and where wider social, environmental or regional development benefits can be achieved.

“These grants will be available from later this year and we’re aiming to encourage the planting of natives, trees for erosion control, and environmentally-focused planting – all ensuring we have the right tree in the right place for the right purpose,” he added.

Conifer Plantation in Wild Nephin area,, now part of the Ballycroy national Park 2 December 2017 Photo: James Orr

Irish comparison

Indigenous forests cover over 25 per cent (7.0 million ha) of New Zealand’s land area. Ireland, in comparison, has one of the lowest rates of forest cover in Europe at 11 per cent. The European average is around 30 per cent.

The State’s latest forestry report released earlier this year indicates that the forest policy is in need of change.

The report points out that forest land cover is at its highest level in over 350 years at 10.5 per cent; however, Ireland’s overall forest cover has barely moved in recent years.

The Irish Wildlife Trust has criticised the Government’s forestry policy that it says “remains fixated on monocultures of non-native conifers”.

These plantations “devour landscapes, pollute water and eradicate habitats”, the conservation group says, even in areas that are deemed of high landscape value or are protected for nature.

According to the latest figures, non-native Sitka spruce is the most common tree species in Ireland, occupying over 52 per cent of the forest area.

Sitka is often criticised as the dense spruce plantations create a thick canopy blocking sunlight from above, leaving a murky brown hollow desert below, void of biodiversity.

The State has set-out a budget of 482 million euros under the latest Forestry Programme 2014-2020 in an aim to boost the forest cover area.

However, despite these aims to increase forest cover, the state has fallen short of its target of planting more than 7,000ha by over 20 per cent, the lowest figures in decades.

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