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Greens win big native trees concession

The Greens have won a big concession from the One Billion Trees programme, forcing Shane Jones to accept that two-thirds of the trees planted will be natives, Thomas Coughlan reports.

Shane Jones announced yesterday that the One Billion Trees programme would receive a $240 million boost from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Normally the Greens probably wouldn't pay much attention to such an announcement, especially given the $3 billion fund represents a far more generous concession to New Zealand First than its own Green Investment Fund, which received just $100 million from this year’s Budget.

But Jones’ also announced yesterday that as many two-thirds of the trees planted will be natives and roughly one-sixth of the Provincial Growth Fund's $3 billion dollars could be spent on the tree planting programme.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has previously said only native trees should be planted on conservation land and it is understood the Greens had pushed for a large number of the trees planted as part of the "billion trees" project to be natives.

New Zealand First, however, is known to prefer exotic trees, particularly pinus radiata, which grows faster and is more useful to the forestry industry. Jones has previously talked about at least half the trees being exotics, which are more suited for reprocessing and 'consume' carbon emissions at a faster rate.

In light of this, the Greens appear to have won a major concession ahead of their conference this weekend.

Jones said exotic trees take carbon out of the atmosphere faster than natives, but officials had advised him to plant a large proportion of natives.

“It’s a feature of the Government’s commitment: we do want to restore and expand native cover,” Jones said.

Additional funding

Yesterday’s funding announcement comes in addition to the $245m already allocated to the tree planting programme from the fund. The two tranches of funding totalling $485m dwarf the $126.6m promised by the fund to other projects.

The latest funding boost includes $118m for grants and a further $120m for partnership projects over three years.

Private landowners, Government agencies, NGOs and iwi will all be eligible to apply for the grants, which will be available later this year.
Jones said they should result in an additional 60 million trees being planted over the next three years.

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