Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The PFSI pays off

The government's Permanent Forest Sink Initiative looks to have paid off already, with Ngati Porou planning to plant 30,000 hectares in permanent forest on the East Coast. This is expected to sequester 15 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next few decades, which at NZ$30 a ton will yield $450 million for Ngati Porou and its investment partner. Not bad for land that was just sitting there and doing nothing - and all they have to do is plant the trees and sit back and watch them grow.

On the down side, the desire for quick carbon uptake means they will be planting mostly eucalyptus rather than natives. But at least there'll be trees rather than bare hillside.


1. isn't there some kind of 20% harvestability clause for plantations such as this?

or did i hear the radio wrong?

if so, they could always plant harvestable natives as they gradually cull the alien species.

2. so, if they're faster-growing, would they necessarily sequester less carbon?

Posted by Anonymous : 12/19/2006 01:24:00 PM

Che: limited harvesting is allowed, on what they call a "continuous canopy basis" - which amounts to about 20% at once rather than clearfelling. So there's an income stream there from wood too, though I'm not sure what eucalyptus is used for other than firewood. As for fast growing, it generally means that its better at absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is exactly what we want.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/19/2006 01:32:00 PM

Well I hope there will be some built in incentive to plant harvestable natives, because fast-growing imported species rape the soil of nutrients and render the land useless for generations, leeching toxins such as pine oil into our water table and supporting other pollution-ridden industries such as timber treatment plants.

Although I am strongly in favour of reforestation of NZ just for it's own sake, I don't think we should trade off the value of reducing our carbon emissions against the long-term health of our soil and indigenous ecosystem.

Posted by zANavAShi : 12/19/2006 02:02:00 PM

You can use eucalyptus for timber, if it's grown and milled carefully, or pulp, both of which uses will keep the carbon out of the atmosphere for longer. I understand a lot of New Zealand-grown gum is no good for timber because it grows too fast here, leading to planks that twist and warp. You also need someone who knows what they're doing to mill the trunk in order to prevent distortion afterwards.

The big strikes against eucalyptus are the higher fire risk, and the enormous amount of water they use in arid areas.

Posted by stephen : 12/19/2006 04:15:00 PM

Its a start, but it is only for the big boys. Why is there nothing for small land owners to also get in behind this . The minimum area is set at large forests - but what about encouraging all farmers and lifestyle block owners to plant around waterways and wetland areas. Nothing there. And yet with encouragement those water ways could be returned to the native treed corridores for birdlife etc that this country is desperately needing right now and would become permanent carbon sinks rather than the fly by night ideas of eucalyptis plantations.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/19/2006 08:49:00 PM

Anon: the short answer is that Kyoto sets a minimum area, and as the PFSI gives out Kyoto credits, the forests have to be Kyoto compliant. So while I too would like to see planting around waterways etc, this isn't the way to encourage it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/19/2006 10:49:00 PM

Thank you for that I/S It is a pity that there does seem to be any initiative for reforestation of small areas by farmers and small land owners. I have just spent the last winter and spring planting and fencing and filling in old farm drains to recreate the wetlands that previously existed, on a small area of land I have, at some cost to myself. The response of birds, native fish life, and frogs, etc to the fresh new space has been worth the effort already. But if I sell - there is nothing to prevent a future owner tearing it all out - unless I covenant it - again at some cost to myself!

Posted by Anonymous : 12/20/2006 08:18:00 PM