Hugging trees: with a spade, trap and chainsaw

A Wellington couple, entreprenuerial tree-huggers if you wish, criticise Fed Farmer’s head-in-the-sand attitude on climate change in the Nelson Mail today. They’ve invested in carbon farming a 47ha block of marginal land in Golden Bay. Jonathan Kennett and Bronwen Wall aren’t wringing their hands or seeking emissions subsidy handouts; they’re getting their hands dirty planting trees to capture carbon, improve biodiversity and even making a mountain bike track so others can enjoy their farm-forestry block.

NativeforestIt’s the sort of environmental entrepreneurship that the Greens envisage in the latest Green New Deal package released today. Full PDF here.

On forestry, the package proposes we plant 665,000ha of forest in the next ten years. Commercial forestry can do half it with some confidence in the carbon price; the Government can joint-venture with iwi and community interests to match that; and kicking-the-tyres of the Afforestation Grants Scheme and the Permanment Forest Sinks Initiative would spur more again.

Much of it can be native forest, planted or regenerated permanently for carbon; and we can use the opportunity with the rest to diversify our forests into higher-value, more durable species that are better for the environment. There’s 27 million tonnes of CO2 in this new forest over 10 years.

On pest control, the package suggests ways we can do more pest control, and do that on the ground so more people are employed and the fur industry can use more of the fur. Many of the remaining textile factories in New Zealand are dependent on possum fur, and are desperate to expand production. For example, Wool Yarns in Lower Hutt and Manawatu Knitting Mills. Done right it can be another win-win for jobs and the environment.

800px-Wilding_pines,_Canterbury,_New_ZealandAnd on wilding conifer eradication, the package extends the argument of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in her high-country report, showing how, with future control funding brought forward, we could actually nip this problem in the bud. There’s some DOC video here.

Taken together we reckon that this would create 50,000 job-years over ten years (a job year is one FTE for one year). We’ve costed it and it adds up to less than half a billion dollars over 10 years. There’s plenty of opportunity there for a government keen to reduce unemployment, fix environmental problems, and bolster rural and provincial New Zealand.

A Green New Deal is about hugging trees with spades, traps and chainsaws. Is the Government ready to muck in and get its hands dirty?