Many challenges hinder Māori to realise their aspirations for native forestry on their land.

Dec 4, 2020

High costs and restrictive governance are just some of the roadblocks that stop Māori landowners from establishing native forestry on their land,

A new research paper by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research explores the decision-making processes of Māori landowners. It looks at the extent to which land-use decision-making processes such as funding programmes and afforestation incentives from the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme enable them to progress native forest aspirations for their whenua.

 “Kaitiakitanga is very important to Māori landowners but we have found multiple challenges hindering their ability to establish native forestry on their land. All are complex and show the need to carefully facilitate the decision-making process,” said Pia Pohatu, one of the authors of the paper. “Key challenges relate to the high cost and need for proven methods to successfully establish native forest, Māori landowners’ readiness to diversify, and clarity around the role and advantage that entering the ETS could play.

“Although support and incentive programmes are available, they fall well short of the true cost in establishing native forest and require a 10-15 year timeframe before contractual liability like pest management requirements can be proven/met,” said Ms Pohatu. “Access to expertise and information is essential although Māori landowners are also needing ways to evaluate benefits and costs of their decisions beyond economic or monetary measures.”

The paper found that few Māori landowners successfully applied or were eligible for central and local government funding programmes and schemes. Challenges that hindered progress at every stage of the land-use decision-making process includedrestrictive governance, limited access to resources, finance and untimeliness.

There aren’t many successful examples of native forestry for carbon yet, particularly for retired or regenerated native forest. “Many of the Māori landowners we interviewed were concerned that native forestry for carbon isn’t yet proven. Uncertainty around the eligibility of their lands  and the lower income to be gained (when compared to exotic species) is not  significant enough to drive a decision to diversify or expand their landuse . These considerations have contributed to the  low uptake of native afforestation and the registration of eligible native forests in the NZ ETS.”

The paper has revealed numerous opportunities for better support, communication and more finely-tuned policy to enable Māori land decision-makers to realise their native afforestation ambitions going forward.