Turning pollution into profit

By Iulia Leilua

Māori landowners are seeking new opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.  At the same time, they are finding ways to turn pollution into profits by planting trees.

The move comes amid new international warnings that rising temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions will worsen climate disasters by 2030.

Pastoral farms account for half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, much of it methane from cows and sheep flatulence.   However, farms are also one of our largest export sectors and vital to the Māori economy.

Te Uranga B2 is a Māori Trust near Taumarunui which has two dairy farms and a beef and sheep unit.

Twenty-five years ago Te Uranga B2 chairman Derek Wooster and his team laid the foundations for clean farming on their land.  They have reduced stock numbers and nitrogen fertiliser. 

They also set aside 117 hectares to protect native ecosystems on their property.  These trees are carbon sinks, which convert C02 into oxygen.  

More recently they planted 20 hectares of mānuka to absorb carbon.  They also plan to plant 348 hectares of pine trees.

One hectare of pine trees can absorb between 600 and 850 tonnes of greenhouse gases over 30 years.   This creates carbon credits- the dollar value earned from each tonne of greenhouse gases stored in a tree.

Carbon credits can be sold for up to NZD$25 per tonne of carbon dioxide to polluters- to absorb or offset their carbon emissions.

For Māori landowners, their roles as kaitiaki are a natural fit in the fight against climate change.

On the East Coast near Ruatoria, another land incorporation has been planning for the future.

Ten years ago, Ngāti Porou Forestry planted a forest sink on mostly marginal land on the East Coast.  Their goal was to absorb carbon dioxide and trade their carbon credits to polluters.

Today their foresight is taking off.  Earlier this year the iwi signed a $4mil deal with Air New Zealand to sell carbon credits from its forestry to offset the airline's carbon emissions.

Now, there’s a call from a new company, the Māori Carbon Foundation, to plant trees and sell carbon credits to polluters.  

The foundation’s newly appointed Māori climate commissioner, Donna Awatere-Huata, says it’s a chance to make money from marginal land for generations to come by planting trees.