Landowners to be offered grants to plant forests
Farmers are to be encouraged to plant trees on erosion-prone land under a new government scheme worth $22 million over six years.
Successful applicants will receive $1300 per hectare for new forest planting, with priority given to applications addressing environmental issues such as erosion.
The Government predicts 15,000 ha of forest will be planted over six years under the rebooted Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS).
The Forest Owners Association (FOA) welcomed the scheme as a "useful contribution" to forestry at a time when the country was losing the area planted in plantation forests.
Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew said the scheme was aimed at farmers and landowners to make better use of marginal land and increase farming diversification.
Under the previous scheme, from 2008 to 2013, more than 12,000 hectares of new forest was planted, much of it on erosion-prone land. The amount handed out then was almost exactly the same, $21.9m.
"Increased forest planting under the previous AGS also led to an additional 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in our forests, mitigating climate change and counting towards New Zealand's national emission reduction targets," Goodhew said.
The Ministry of Primary Industries will manage the scheme with support from regional councils and iwi, which will help identify under-utilised land best suited for forest planting.
Applications for the scheme will open on May 27 and close on June 30. This would ensure enough time to factor in the growing and ordering of seedlings and necessary land preparation before planting in winter 2016.
FOA technical manager Glen Mackie said the $1300 per ha amount would approximately equate to the cost of establishing a hectare of forest, provided there were no additional costs such as fencing, or spraying to clear the land of gorse or pasture.
The one downside of the grant scheme for landowners was the fact carbon credits for the first 10 years of planting went to the Government.