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Carbon Forestry

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has been quite active in the New Zealand carbon market since it was developed in 2008. Here we outline what a carbon market is, how it fits into the New Zealand context, how Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is involved, and how landowners can understand the benefits and risks of carbon forestry on their land.

The issues at hand - Erosion

The East Coast Region has a long history of forest clearance of its hill country for pastoral farming that has left large parts of the region susceptible to soil erosion. Within the 1.42 million hectares of land area within the Hawke’s Bay Region, an estimated 252,000 hectares of this land is considered to be highly erodible. Much of this land was cleared with incentives from central government in the interests of economic development. Too often forest clearance took place on land with marginal pastoral value and with adverse environmental consequences.

In response to a loss of forested lands, HBRC has been working to re-establish tree cover on highly erodible lands. Since 1947, HBRC and its predecessors have helped establish an estimated 2.2 million poplar and willow poles on 45,000 hectares of erodible lands. In addition, HBRC has over 2,000 hectares of plantation forest estate under its management and has joint ventures on another 160 ha. The scale and pace of this work however has not been enough to address the extent of our erosion issues.

The biggest driver of poor water quality in the East Coast region’s lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal environments is sediment from soil erosion. This soil erosion damages habitat for aquatic animal and plant species and delivers excessive phosphorus to waterways increasing nutrient levels and stimulates algae.

The issues at hand - Climate Change

The increasing likelihood of droughts and large storm events have a compounding effect on our existing erosion issues putting many of our farmers and their communities at serious risk. The increase intense rain events reduces the ability of our soils to absorb rain when it does come and will have a compounding effect on our existing erosion issues. In addition to harming water quality, large-scale erosion during heavy rainfall events risks local infrastructure due to the build-up of sediment in river beds. This impacts on flood protection and increases the severity of flooding on low lying areas.

How trees can help

Trees can provide a number of significant benefits for farming systems and the wider landscape. Tree cover can help ensure more soil stays on the hills where it is productive and out of the waterways where it is a contaminant. A variety of forests and forest species are also key elements in regional climate change resilience and emissions reductions.

Planting trees can provide an estimated $851/ha/yr benefit for 20 years compared to an uneroded state (Dominati, 2014). Most of the value is not in provisioning services like wood or food for harvest but in regulating services such as filtering nutrients, carbon sequestration, and flood mitigation.

 trees on farm image

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