Māori foresters face dilemma over replanting land

Friday 29 Apr 2022

Māori face a dilemma. Of the 27 million hectares of land in New Zealand, they now own only 6 percent of it - that's 1.6 million hectares. And 80 percent of that is categorised as some of the worst in the country. So, what do they do with it?

Do they make as much money off it as they can - NZ$40 billion by Government estimates, by planting pine for carbon credits? Or do they take a hit and return it all to native forest? Or is there a third option?

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua - as man disappears from sight, the land remains.

This Māori proverb talks about the deep connection Māori have with their land. But years of confiscation and land alienation have left Māori with some of the worst whenua (land) in Aotearoa. "The scale only goes to 8, and 8 is the worst classification and 80 percent of Māori's 1.6 million hectares is in category 6-8," said Ngā Pou a Tane - National Māori Forest Association chair Te Kapunga Dewes.

Half of Māori land is under-utilised, that's 800,000 hectares. Most of it is marginal and steep, meaning forests are the only option. The other issue is Māori land can be an economic burden due to barriers with communally owned land. This means being unable to attract funding or use the land as security.

But if that land was planted right now in pine, it could be worth NZ$40 billion (based on the net present value) to Māori landowners through carbon credits. Trouble is the Government is considering removing those credits on exotic forests.

Dewes represents Māori foresters and wants the Government to leave the payment alone. "[There is] 50,000 NPV (net present value) for 1 hectare of land, Māori land [is] underdeveloped right now. And I don't see the Government giving billions of dollars to Māori to develop their land, so perhaps they should just leave it alone," said Dewes.

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Source: newshub

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