Thursday, July 18, 2024

Tree pilot digs in to future-proof Hawke’s Bay

The first trees have been planted in an ambitious programme to future-proof Hawke’s Bay farms, support rural communities and improve the environment.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and global environmental non-government organisation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), are leading and funding the programme, currently known as Right Tree Right Place, in partnership with landowners.

Council says the project aims to support farmers’ vision for their land, including planting of trees on marginal and erodible land, and enhancing their soil health and farm systems.

Project lead, Michael Basset-Foss says it’s exciting that the seedlings are in the ground for the first pilot farm.

“This is a significant milestone for this project which aims to give farmers the tools, expertise and capital to realise their vision for their farm. If this goes well, we will scale up this project so more farmers can get involved.”

Evan and Linda Potter in Elsthorpe, Central Hawke’s Bay are the first pilot farm to be involved in the project.

Last week, around 3,300 Himalayan Cedar and 10,000 Radiata Pine seedlings were planted on 13 hectares of erodible areas of the Potter’s farm. Further plantings will involve native species.

Mr Potter says being involved with the programme will change their current pastoral system by reducing about 400 stock units out of the system, reducing their work-load and enable them to focus on pastoral systems on the better land.

“It will add resilience to our business and it will allow us to focus on our better class of land, be more productive, and generate good income off the tougher parts of our farm.”

“I know pine trees are a swear word and in some instances, trees are a swear word, but it might be worth having a look at what they offer to improve business resilience,” he said.

Mr Basset-Foss says they will be working with up to 15 farms in coming months to establish the programme and financial arrangements and will work with participating farmers to develop detailed farm and forestry plans.

“We need an innovative, transformational scheme to slow erosion, improve freshwater quality, enhance biodiversity and support climate resilience,” he said.

TNC’s project manager, Andrew Harrison says TNC was excited to be involved in a new investment approach to support farming communities to improve their business resilience, while at the same time delivering benefits for nature.

He said TNC was evaluating a $50-$100 million scale-up impact investment opportunity that would enable more farmers to get involved and access the tools, expertise and capital on offer.

“TNC is working closely with the Regional Council and other stakeholders to develop a business case for the expanded impact investment, which will be considered in early 2023.”

“The first trees in the ground show real momentum for this project and is an exciting step to demonstrate the environmental and economic benefits and what can be achieved.

“While these initial plantings focus on fast growing exotics, we’re really looking forward to seeing an increase in native planting over time and the benefits this will bring for biodiversity,” Mr Harrison said.

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