A billion or half more trees

National MP Simon Bridges has accused the Government of halving it’s tree planting plan. Yesterday a press release from Simon Bridges: So, half as many trees then?

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

Included in the Labour-NZ first coalition agreement:

Coalition Priorities

In this parliamentary term, New Zealand First has a number of priorities to progress which Labour will support alongside its policy programme. These include the following goals:

Regional Economic Development and Primary Industries

  • $1b per annum Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund, including:
    • Planting 100 million trees per year in a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

That implies a Government Fund for a Billion Trees Planting Programme.

From the Speech from the Throne:

The New Zealand Forestry Service will be re-established and located in regional New Zealand. This government is committed to a new planting programme, planting 100 million trees a year to reach a billion more trees in ten years.

That says “a new planting programme”.

But news reports had made it clear the plan was to double existing tree planting numbers.

Newshub on 25 October: Revealed: Shane Jones Minister for 100 million trees, $1 billion regional fund

Shane Jones will be the Minister responsible for spending $1 billion a year on New Zealand’s regions.

Newshub has also learned that Jones will also be in charge of the new Forestry Service, which will plant 100 million trees a year – with the goal of planting a billion over 10 years.

It is understood that about 50 million trees are already planted in New Zealand each year, meaning the new Government’s planting will double that.

That clearly says doubling to 100 million trees a year, or to 1 billion trees in total.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show on Wednesday the fund will help grow the regions.

“Labour went to the election with a $200 million fund. NZ First came to us and made the case strongly for greater regional investment, particularly around infrastructure. So this fund will include, for instance, a number of regional rail projects,” she said.

“It will include an extensive planting regime for forestry. Our intention is to double the amount of planting that goes on in forestry right now.”

A clear statement of intent to double the number of trees currently being planted.

Ardern responded to Bridges accusations yesterday – 1 billion-tree aim ‘always a joint goal’

But Ardern told reporters yesterday the Government was never going to plant 1 billion trees on its own.

“We’ve always been really clear. We see a role for the Forestry Service to work alongside those in the private sector to ensure we’re supporting the planting of those trees.”

She pointed to Air New Zealand’s announcement on Tuesday to work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries to fund tree-planting over up to 15,000ha in return for carbon benefits.

“Overall our goal is a billion trees being planted. It would be splitting hairs trying to decipher whether or not that [tree] was solely Government [or] solely private sector … this is a collaborative approach.”

Labour and NZ First may be guilty of not being absolutely clear about their intent on tree planting in their agreement and in the Speech from the Throne, but it seems clear from other reports that they intended to double plantings to 100 million a year.

I think to most people both half a billion and a billion trees is a lot, and they won’t care (if they notice) whether it is a doubling of planting or additional.

Bridges needs to be careful he doesn’t inherit the ‘barking at every passing car’ syndrome.

On this he looks a bit pedantic and guilty of petty nitpicking.