Thursday, November 30, 2023

Pāmu project puts price on native ecosystems

Pāmu (Landcorp Farming Limited) is leading a joint project to measure the benefits of New Zealand’s native ecology in economic terms, driven by the desire to reward landowners and farmers for looking after and improving indigenous ecosystems.

It says the project will deliver the tools and knowledge needed to generate financial incentives for landowners to conserve, protect and restore native ecosystems and their associated biodiversity such as freshwater wetlands, forests, and streams.

“We proposed this initiative because we are driven by a desire to recognise the positive mahi our farmers are doing to add value to their environmental resources. It also supports agriculture’s transition to meet growing consumer, societal and regulatory expectations for better stewardship of natural assets,” said Pāmu CEO, Mark Leslie.

“The value provided by ecosystems is increasingly being integrated into governmental decision-making processes and by the finance sector through their Sustainable Loan ESG requirements.”

A framework and monitoring tool will be developed to robustly measure the changes on privately-owned land that occur after implementing management activities. These might include fencing off waterways, retiring hillsides susceptible to erosion from production, planting native plants, or undertaking pest plant and animal control, Pāmu said in a statement.

The benefits gained from carrying out these activities will be quantified including improvements to ecosystems such as nutrient cycling, flood and erosion control, carbon sequestration, and water quality.

Trials will be carried out over four years on three Pāmu farms in Northland: Kapiro, Takakuri and Ōmāmari, which have a variety of high-value ecosystems such as wetlands, freshwater streams, and indigenous forests.

The project, a first in Aotearoa New Zealand, is a partnership between Pāmu, Wildland Consultants, Tane’s Tree Trust, and Queensland, Lincoln and Massey universities. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) and the Tindall Foundation are contributing more than $560,000 over four years towards the project. Toitū Tahua/Centre for Sustainable Finance is supporting the project with in-kind assistance, and Northland Regional Council via a Kaipara Moana Remediation Partnership grant is providing additional support for project activities.    

Mr Leslie said the project was fully in-step with new financing mechanisms such as Green Loans and the Sustainable Agriculture Finance Initiative.

The ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change is at the forefront of ‘Payment for Ecosystem Service’ (PES) schemes, a market-based means to encourage and reward landowners for nurturing and restoring native habitats (such as QEII covenants), he said.

“We are confident this work could fit into a biodiversity credit system and enable some farm products to proudly wear the label ‘nature positive’.”

“By purchasing ‘nature enhancing’ credits, individuals and organisations can directly help protect and enhance nature on public, Māori and private land,” said Mr Leslie.

Pāmu manages nearly 400,000 hectares over more than 110 farms. Of that some 9,844 hectares are held in QEII covenants and around 6,000 hectares are managed under other protection covenants. Some land Pāmu farms is to be returned to iwi under treaty settlements.

“Pāmu strives to be an exemplary pastoral farmer and is firmly focused on running a profitable and efficient business while nurturing and enriching the land we farm. One of the ways we create value for Aotearoa New Zealand is to support innovation that will widely benefit Aotearoa New Zealand’s agricultural sector,” Mr Leslie said.

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