Govt tree target a 'mirage' - Opposition

  • 21/01/2018
National Forestry spokesman Dr Nick Smith.
National Forestry spokesman Dr Nick Smith. Photo credit: Getty

A government target to plant 1 billion trees in 10 years is quickly becoming an "embarrassing" "mirage", the Opposition says.

The Labour-New Zealand First coalition earlier pledged to reach the target by doubling the 50 million trees already planted each year to 100 million.

However, Forestry Minister Shane Jones on Friday admitted his team was having a "real challenge" finding land for the project and was now expecting to plant only 5 million extra trees this year for a total of about 55 million.

National's Economic and Regional Development spokesman Simon Bridges lambasted the back down on Sunday, saying it would take 200 years to plant a billion trees at 5m per year.

"We are three months in and not a single tree has been planted - so the Government is around 24 million trees behind target already," he said.

National Forestry spokesman Dr Nick Smith said the programme's early failure had damaged the new Government's economic and environmental credibility, especially as it was the second back down.

He said initially the Government promised 100 million extra trees per year, but then cut this in half by including the 50 million trees already being planted.

"The new target for 2018 is now no different from what is already happening. An average of 55 million trees were planted each year over the last seven years, increasing to 62.5 million in 2016," he said.

"The minister's new promise of 55 million trees being planted this year is barely any promise at all."

Mr Jones said while the Government would not be buying land to plant trees on, it was busy hunting for suitable land in partnership with private enterprise.

"It's not realistic to say it can be done exclusively by the Government," he told the AM Show.

"But I'm assured by the officials they will go out and find the necessary blocks of land. It's going to ramp up."