A Wellington couple have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a "carbon farm" in Golden Bay they say will benefit the community as well as the environment.
Jonathan Kennett and Bronwen Wall have just bought 47ha of marginal farmland in the Rameka Valley specifically to create a carbon sink and they've invited the community to get involved.
Around 40 people turned out at a public meeting at the Whole Meal Cafe in Takaka on Thursday night at which an incorporated society was formed to manage the new carbon farm.
Mr Kennett said that together with volunteers, the couple intended to plant native trees and create tracks for mountain bikers and walkers on the land, which will extend the popular Rameka Track.
The author of Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides, Mr Kennett has also designed bike tracks for the Department of Conservation and managed revegetation projects in Wellington.
The couple paid $300,000 for the land they bought to "make a personal contribution" to halt climate change.
"Under the Kyoto agreement we are required to reduce emissions to 1990 levels but emissions of greenhouse gases in New Zealand are going up every year. Nationally, we are doing a dismal job of meeting our Kyoto agreements," Mr Kennett said.
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, CO2 emissions needed to be cut by 70 percent, he said.
The couple plan to set up a trust which will lease the land to the new incorporated society. They intend to work with volunteers to create a "permanent forest sink" under a government-initiated scheme to help it meet its Kyoto obligations.
Landowners with 5ha or more of forested land can enter the scheme and be paid for the carbon that trees planted since 1990 are locking up as they grow.
"In the 1980s the Government encouraged farmers to clear land but now it is encouraging farmers to plant trees. There is so much marginal land in New Zealand and much of it is ideal for carbon farming," Mr Kennett said.
"As the climate change issue becomes more urgent it will soon become as viable to carbon farm as to sheep farm. Farmers will realise they can do less work and make more money carbon farming."
Mr Kennett said the couple chose Golden Bay as "an ideal place" for a carbon farm.
"Golden Bay is ahead of the rest of the country there are so many people on the wavelength of sustainability."
The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is one of several schemes, along with the proposed NZ Emissions Trading Scheme which will enable carbon farmers to get paid for planting forests.
Details are at www.maf.govt.nz/climatechange.
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