Carbon farming

THE INDUSTRY

Natives versus exotics

In our kaupapa, the best way to see the return to native forestry, is to utilise the profits from the carbon produced by exotic species.

Tāmata Hauhā has no desire to push a monoculture on you, nor blanket plant pine trees across the motu. We have options with many other exotic varieties to create forestry that can sequester large amounts of carbon whilst also producing opportunities for diversification as well as habitat and food supply for our fauna.

The pou and focus of Tāmata Hauhā is around he whenua, he tāngata, he taurikura. And we do not want to miss the opportunities that the returns from exotic forests will create.

Tāmata Hauhā want to acknowledge that we have shared aspirations to be planting 100% native forestry – as Māori we whakapapa back to them! However, it should be noted that the returns from exotic forests are up to ten times greater than those from native forests. That is why Tāmata Hauhā believes if landowners start with exotics with the option to slowly transition or include more natives, they will see wider outcomes for the whānau. For example, over a 30-year period, landowners would likely receive $24,000 more (as returns) per hectare from exotic forests than natives. Providing the resourcing to invest in our social needs as well as diversity or invest in people as an outcome.

Tāmata Hauhā believes we can get to where we all want to be, if we take a long-term approach by utilising the profits from the carbon of exotic forests. This approach will enable landowners to deliver intergenerational benefits and wellbeing for their rangatahi and those to come.

 

THE EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME

Carbon, the enabler

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is New Zealand’s main way of helping to reduce carbon emissions and meet our international targets for climate change. The ETS is a market that moves the cost of emissions onto the businesses that caused them.

The currency we use is New Zealand Emission Units (NZU). Each NZU represents one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. NZU’s are bought and sold between businesses with emitters paying NZU’s corresponding to the tonnes of carbon dioxide that they are emitting.

Forest owners can earn NZU’s from the government as trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere. The foresters or rights holders (such as Tāmata Hauhā) can sell those NZU’s to emitters. The price of NZU’s depends on a variety of things, but primarily based on supply and demand – how many emission units are available and how much businesses want or need to buy in order to emit.

By putting a price on emissions, the ETS is encouraging businesses to look at ways they can reduce emission through day to day practices and investing in assets and technologies. Some emitters can pass some or all of the costs of their emissions onto consumers. For example, when we buy petrol, a part of the cost goes back to the oil company which it uses to pay the government for its carbon emissions.

To date, the ETS has helped us meet our international emissions reduction targets. However, demand for NZU’s are still increasing due to the reductions we still need to make by 2050.

The ETS will help New Zealanders move to a lower emissions future and the government will regularly review it to ensure it remains for purpose.

For up-to-date and information independent from Tāmata Hauhā,
please see these websites:

environment.govt.nzmpi.govt.nz

TREE SPECIES

Absorbing carbon

Eucalypts

Eucalypts are moderate to fast growing varieties of gums trees, with some varieties out-performing radiata pine in both height and diameter. Varieties such as mountain ash forests store more carbon than any other known species in New Zealand. However for forests that are under 100 ha, the Ministry for Primary Industries suggest that Eucalypts store carbon about 80% as fast as pine.

The rapid initial growth rates, structure, and density of eucalypts makes them ideal for a range of uses, some of which can be integrated with carbon forestry. These include: Agroforestry (trees grown around or amongst crops or animals), Apiculture (honey production), Target Diameter Harvesting (selective removal), Floristry (floral industry), Rongoa, Pharmaceuticals, as well as land treatment of waste water and solid waste.

Unlike Pine, Eucalypts provide feed and habitat to many of our indigenous bird species, as well as being attractive to honeybees as most species provide nectar. The quantity and quality varies, but we are able to apply species can be used for both carbon forestry and honey production.

Whilst there are many attractive qualities of Eucalypts, they are typically not as hardy as pine and require good management. In short, your localised climate will play a big part in the varieties suitable for your whenua.

If you are interested in learning more, resources can be found through farm forestry New Zealand.  

Visit Farm Forestry here

Paulownia

Paulownia elongata is one of the fastest growing trees on the planet. A one-year-old seedling can be two metres to 3m high at the end of the first summer and they seem to grow another 2m a year for a few years, before they slow down a little. They are known to grow to 3m in their first year having ornamental qualities due to their huge blue trumpets and dinner-plate-sized leaves.

The timber of a paulownia is uncommonly hard and dense for a fast-growing tree. Speedy trees, such as poplars and willows, usually have weak timber. When the tree is young, the wood is fleshy like a watermelon and then hardens into a first-class timber.

In our climate, they need to be away from the coast, or at least sheltered, because their big leaves are ripped up by storms. They also need to be pruned regularly and managed for the puriri moth, which bore holes in the tree. 

However, paulownias produce a lot more than just timber. Each tree grows leaves equalling 100kg of dry matter per year. Even with 100 trees planted per hectare, there is no reduction in the grass growth underneath, and you can take advantage of all that extra feed growing up above.

Underground, the trees are hard at work, sending roots out over 20m to capture nutrients. University of Mississippi research found paulownias reabsorb up to 75 percent of the nitrogen and nutrients that is missed by grass roots.  Its environmental benefits however are not officially recognised in NZ. Overseer, the software used by the NZ farming industry to measure nutrients, hasn’t been programmed for paulownias, so farmers can’t officially claim their benefits.

As with any tree, your localised climate, and in this case the wind factors will play a big part in determining if this species will be suitable for your whenua. 

Presently, our ability to supply these species would be delayed by a year on securing an agreement. An option to initially trial this species on your land is a possibility.

If you are interested in seeing these trees in action, please see the Miraka Farm episode on Country Calendar (Season 2018, Episode 1)

 

Pine (Pinus radiata)

Pinus radiata (or ‘Pine’) is a very versatile evergreen conifer species native to southern California. It is the most widely planted pine in the world and the most popular commercial timber species in New Zealand. It is easily managed; grows quickly; produces useful timber; makes strong wood pulp; growing well across a variety of soil types, including coastal sands, heavy clays, sub-alpine gravels and volcanic ash deposits. Such qualities and versatility highlight why it is used nearly everywhere in Aotearoa, unlike Paulownia and Eucalypts, which are selected for use on a site-specific basis.

Due to the rapid milling of native timber in the 1900’s and the slow-growing nature of our own conifer species, pine was selected on its growth and use merits to replace native timbers for commercial timber. Since then, commercial investment and improvement programmes have continued. Through controlled cross-breeding, hybridisation and advanced plant propagation techniques, scientists have developed specific strains that are best adapted to particular climatic zones and soil types, are resistant to foliage diseases, and produce wood that is very durable.

Managing pine plantations for timber involves thinning and pruning, depending on whether the trees are being grown for high-value saw logs, or as lower-quality logs. For Carbon farming thinning and pruning programmes are often less intensive – which often accounts for its distain. If considered for timber, trees will have a harvest age of 25–35 years, with final tree numbers being around 300 stems per hectare, as two thirds of the trees planted are usually cut down during the early stages of the growing cycle to make more room for the others. Thinning will also be an option for Carbon farming, with the felled trees potentially harvested as posts, poles or firewood.

As a standalone species (and presuming no other complimentary farming activities are taking place) pine will likely provide landowners with the greatest carbon earning potential. However with any monoculture, the effect of such application is short-sighted. As such, and if used, Tāmata Hauhā will work with landowners to come up with a management programme that affords comfort as kaitiaki.

Please note that pine seed can be spread by the wind, and would require good site selection and proactive management on our part.