$160k worth of seedlings mulched

Friday 16 Nov 2018

About 400,000 seedlings bought by the New Zealand government to plant in Northland have gone to waste after the land was too wild to plant on. Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the cost to the taxpayer was about NZ$160,000.

A deal was done between the Crown and the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust in the Far North earlier this year and 1.2 million seedlings were bought to be planted. Mr Jones said only 200,000 seedlings were successfully planted because the land wasn't up to scratch.

"Well the land is untamed land, it's wild, and obviously the analysis that was done on the ground was a lot more ambitious in terms of what could be delivered upon,'' he said. About 600,000 of the seedlings were re-distributed to other forestry ventures - many of which are with iwi and have existed for many years.

Mr Jones said he'd been clear with officials involved in the botch-up that it's not good enough. Mr Jones said part of the problem was the government was elected in October and planting started four or five months later and "perhaps those targets were too ambitious''.

In August Mr Jones announced Cabinet had approved the creation of a new grants programme and partnership fund to get more trees in the ground and provide training and employment opportunities.

The Provincial Growth Fund, which Mr Jones is the minister in charge of, is allocating $240m to support tree planting in areas where "wider social, environmental, and regional development goals can be achieved''.

Documents released by Treasury reveal they were highly critical of the grants and fund and said as much in a briefing paper to the Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Officials said there was "little detail" that came with the Budget bid and they didn't support Cabinet approving it.

Mr Jones said Treasury gave some "predictable cautionary remarks", which he's taken into account. The details had been worked through since that briefing paper and he said he's confident Treasury's concerns have been covered off. The greater details of the partnership fund and grants programme will be released later this month.

Source: Scoop



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