Robyn Haugh, CEO of Project Crimson Trust/Trees That Count, is thrilled to hear strong support for native trees from the Ministry of Forests: but believes that a change in the way we view native forests will bring even greater benefits to New Zealand.
“Right tree, right place” is an adage for a reason. It effectively communicates the need for tree planting to be a thoughtful and ecological process, rather than a token gesture.
The use of this adage in recent communications from Minister Nash is encouraging: and as he notes, this kind of strategic approach to planting is crucial to ensuring the sustainability of the sector.
The minister is also right to give the government the mandate to ensure that tree planting is done in an environmentally responsible manner.
Does every landowner, every New Zealander, have a responsibility to our native forests? Absoutely.
But equally, government incentivization of the right forestry options for landowners is key to ensuring individuals are equipped to make the right decisions for New Zealand.
This is a bold statement by Nash that “land planted in the permanent forest category should only be planted with native trees,” and a statement we, of course, wholeheartedly agree with.
The Minister identifies several of the advantages of native forests: the longevity and the lower likelihood of problems associated with monocultures, such as the risk of fire.
However, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the myriad other benefits of native trees: for our biodiversity, our ecosystems, our communities, tourism, culture and many more.
As Aimers, Bergin and Horgan point out in their excellent researchrecognizing the many non-timber values of native forests as quantifiable assets would contribute to the incentive for native tree planting that the government is striving to achieve.
A shift in the dichotomous mentality presented by the Minister (that of usable and productive exotic plantations versus conserved and protected native forests) would also be helpful in moving this conversation forward.
The Minister suggests that land suitable for production forestry be planted with radiata, Douglas fir or redwood. But what about our native species in this context as well?
Native forests under agreement and protection will always have a place (for example, for programs like ours, where native trees are given with the knowledge that they will be planted permanently).
But likewise, our ecologists and scientists are creating fascinating pathways into native forests as productive, living entities.
In an Aotearoa New Zealand that truly values its native forests, protected and productive native forests would be present.
This has the potential, as Prime Minister Ardern mentioned today, to match environmental challenges with economic opportunities.
Our environmentalists tell us that this is a very real vision: take for example the fascinating Tōtara Industrial Pilot underway in Northland, working to valorize tōtara as it once was by Māori, both in an environmental and commercial sense.
Imagine the thriving whenua, with our stunning protected native forests and recreation reserves alongside sustainably managed productive native forests.
This would economically and culturally celebrate products such as beautiful native woods, sources of rongoā such as mānuka and kawakawa, and the dozens of other beneficial products of our native rākau.
This is the Aotearoa I would like to be part of: and the one we owe to future generations.
Learn more about the trees that matter
Trees That Count is a program of the charity Project Crimson Trust. Trees That Count operates the nation’s first native tree market which connects funded and gifted native trees with deserving community groups, iwi, local councils, schools and individuals seeking to strengthen their own planting projects.
Trees That Count is generously supported by the Tindall Foundation, alongside the many companies and individuals who donate through the marketplace.