New Zealand’s One Billion Trees program begins 2 restorative, revitalizing projects

On November 5, 2018 in New Zealand, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced two environmentally restorative and economically revitalizing projects.

They aim to plant 247,000 native trees while revitalizing the local economy by teaching restorative skills and providing restorative jobs. The projects are part of the nation’s One Billion Trees program.

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide just over $2.2 million to plant 247,000 native trees in two areas: Punakaiki on the West Coast and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere in Canterbury.

Planting these native trees has multiple benefits. It’s good for the economy and for our regional communities through creating jobs, providing skills training and enhancing ecological tourism opportunities in the regions. It will also help us meet our climate change objectives and provide conservation benefits as we restore native forests and create habitats for threatened birds and other native wildlife,” Shane Jones said.

The programmes will include a number of ecological and pest control initiatives which will involve a range of partners across local communities, government, volunteer groups, and landowners. It will be a real community approach. Each initiative focuses on developing skills and employment. In Punakaiki, planting will enable an expansion of the Conservation Work Skills programme for school leavers and unemployed youth who will gain work skills and improve their employment prospects. The restoration will benefit tourism and support and enhance a whitebait breeding ground,” he explained.

Restoration programmes like these are a fundamental part of the One Billion Trees programme, not only to help us reach our tree planting target over the next ten years but as a way to support a community’s social, economic, and cultural wellbeing,” Jones added.

Eugenie Sage said that at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere 34 hectares of kahikatea forest would be restored by the Department of Conservation on sites adjacent to the lake. “Te Waihora is one of the country’s largest coastal wetland areas. The lake’s shoreline was once covered with native forest. Now there’s barely any kahikatea swamp forest left in the whole of Canterbury so restoring kahikatea forest on the shores of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere has huge conservation and cultural value.

Te Waihora is a taonga and very significant site for Ngāi Tahu, including Taumutu, Wairewa and other papatipu rūnanga. The planting project adds to the work Ngāi Tahu are doing to document, protect and restore the cultural and ecological values of the lake. The new forest will create habitat for native birds and fish and improve the health of the lake,” Sage explained.

Punakaiki is the only place in the country where tāiko, the Westland petrel, breeds. Planting native trees on the Punakaiki coastal flats should help increase the population of this at-risk native species by enhancing its breeding habitat,” she added.

Planting at Punakaiki on the West Coast and Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is underway this spring. Here’s a quick overview of some of the expected environmental and economic benefits:

Punakaiki Land Restoration – West Coast

The PGF will provide $1.209 million over three years, enabling Conservation Volunteers NZ to lead the planting of 179,000 native trees. This will add 35.8 hectares of native forest at Punakaiki. Conservation Volunteers NZ’s partners for the planting are DOC, Ngati Waewae and the local community.

Environmental benefits:

  • the restoration of the area’s wetland ecosystem;
  • enhancing the location of the only known breeding colonies for the westland petrel;
  • restoring the nationally significant Bullock Creek Polje (a large flat floored depression in a Karst landscape), which is the only one in the country;
  • supporting and enhancing a whitebait breeding ground; and
  • supporting the area’s biodiversity and enhancing it for locals and tourists to enjoy.

Economic benefits:

  • job creation through the planting program;
  • enabling youth training and employment pathways through a partnership with the Ministry of Social Development; and
  • supporting Conservation Volunteers New Zealand to increase the number of native seedlings grown at its nursery.

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere Restoration – Canterbury

The PGF will provide $1.06 million, over three years to enable DOC to lead the planting of 68,000 native trees on the Te Waihora/Lakes Ellesmere shoreline. This will create 34 hectares of new kahikatea forest by the lake. Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is one of the country’s largest coastal wetland areas.

Economic Benefits:

  • creating jobs through planting; and
  • providing skills training and creating employment pathways for school leavers and unemployed youth.

Environmental Benefits:

  • restoring kahikatea forest, a very rare type of native forest in Canterbury; and
  • supporting restoration of a degraded wetland ecosystem.

Featured photo by Alan Liefting (via English Wikipedia) shows the famous “Pancake Rocks” of Punakaiki.

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