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Mana whenua around the country are thinking about different ways of restoring the mauri of the whenua they are responsible for. We hear and know that people are wanting to help Te Taiao but currently there are barriers.

The climate crisis and the option of planting trees for permanent carbon sinks seems like an attractive option to do good and provide mahi on tribal whenua, but there are some hooks.

Forest understorey nikau

Forest understorey nikau. Image credit: Neil Silverwood

Māori have always understood that the ngahere has benefits to all aspects of life. A big opportunity for Aotearoa is based around capturing carbon with rakau and using native species seems like a no- brainer. But the current problem is that planting up with exotic trees like pines is easier and more financially beneficial in the short term. That’s because it will take five years after planting pines as permanent carbon sinks to start getting a financial return.

If native rakau are planted, payments will come in years after it takes for pines.

Out of desperation some people/hapu/tribal interests are planning on planting pines as permanent carbon sinks, although this is not what they would prefer to do.

We need to change this and place priority on our incredible native species which Māori throughout the motu know hold amazing potential. In addition to this, long-term native forests are much more sophisticated carbon sinks because not only do the trees grow for much longer but there's shrubs, smaller trees, ferns, vines etc so more carbon is locked into the ngaherehere and there’s more kai for manu.

The problem you face can be corrected if the Government subsidised the costs of replanting native species for that initial stage of tree establishment so it is financially equal with pines. The Government will have a great amount of money flowing in to pay for the Emissions Reduction Plan.

Forest & Bird has also identified that native forests loaded with possums, deer, goats, wallabies and pigs are very sick. These ngahere have become weak carbon sinks or have flipped to release carbon dioxide as they collapse. So there are opportunities to do better here.

The climate is in trouble and so are native wildlife, plants and waterways.

Is it possible to come up with a way forward that could help all these kaupapa together ensuring future generations can prosper? We think there could be win-win-win solutions.

Across Aotearoa there are 1 million hectares of marginal and erodible whenua that could be planted up – at the least. The Government are currently calling for submissions on the national Emissions Reduction Plan (deadline: 24 November). The Emissions Reduction Plan will end up being how, across Aotearoa, we will reduce climate pollution from power generation, factories, cars etc. It will also include how we plant new carbon sinks and keep natural carbon sinks - like native forests - healthy to lock in as much carbon as possible.

The opportunity is here for:

  • Planting up huge areas in native species
  • Ongoing pest control that keeps possums, deer, goats, wallabies and pigs as low as possible
  • Returning what has been lost: rongoa, clean water, stability from erosion, returning the ngahere to what it was and ngā rakau that flourish in it. Maybe later on manu, like kīwī which may no longer be there could be returned, and integrating other moemoea

Writing a short submission and indicating you’d like to korero your whakaaro will help ensure that mana whenua are at the forefront of helping reduce the impact of the climate crisis while creating employment within their rohe.

We encourage your voice to be heard at this crucial time and it's as easy as clicking this link Quick submission - have your say and shape the emissions reduction plan - Ministry for the Environment Citizen Space - Citizen Space.

You don’t have to be a legal expert or planner to submit and we think that the voice of people that understand the whenua is the most important. The process is really easy and can have a massive impact on our future.

Here are a few questions from the submission website that we have given some easy starting points:

  • What do you think are the most important things to be considered in the development of the emissions reduction plan?
    • That Government subsidises the costs of replanting native species for the initial stage of establishment so it is financially equal with pines.
  • What new initiatives would you include in an emissions reduction plan for Aotearoa?
    • Help to facilitate landowners to plant natives but provide both financial and technical support around the country.
  • What do you see are the main opportunities and impacts of emissions reduction policies in Aotearoa?
    • There’s a huge opportunity to restore the mauri of the whenua and have a positive impact on tangata, Te Taiao and our taonga species.
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