Rotorua Māori forestry sector applaud trees scheme

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Māori in the forestry sector in Rotorua are applauding the governments move to plant 1 Billion trees over the next ten years. Forestry enterprise Toitū Te Waonui says the scheme has the potential to provide millions in revenue to Māori land owners and jobs for the region.

Whakapoungākau Māori land owners are welcoming the government's new tree planting scheme.

“I like that news, we've been doing this now for the last six or seven years,” said Whakapoungākau Māori Land Trust chair, John Ransfield. “The lease money we were getting was peanuts. The rates was taking all that.  So I talked to Toitū Te Waonui and this where we're here today.”

Since 2011 Toitū Te Waonui have been working with Māori land owners within the Bay of Plenty, Whanganui and Northland in the area of forestry and investors both local and overseas, to ensure Māori get a better return.

“Hugely exciting,” said founder, Mike King.  “We tried for a number of years under National to get them to partner with us on this project. They felt that they were doing enough in their space. So hearing the announcements in the last couple of days from the new government is really injected a lot of excitement and opportunity and potential into this project.”

“If you leased your land at harvest time big companies we're getting 95 percent and land owners were getting 5 percent,” Ransfield. “The return is the investors get 60 percent and the owners get 40 percent.”

Last year 1, 100 pine stems per hectare were planted here on the 80 hectare Whakapoungākau Māori Land Trust block.

“The good thing about the idea is that us living outside the city's, our young people will be able to get work,” said Te Arawa elder, Sir Toby Curtis.

“And you have land clearing, you have fencing, you have roading that's jobs,” said King. “It's all jobs, jobs, jobs.”

However, King is also cautious.

“We got to be careful that we put people in who have a vision for the future and not somebody whose going to duplicate the past.”

The Whakapoungākau Māori Land block is expected to net a return of $4.8mill at harvest in 25-30years.