The new Government’s target to plant a billion trees in ten years is rapidly turning into a fanciful mirage, National Party MPs Simon Bridges and Nick Smith say.

“We learnt on Friday that Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is now hoping to plant just five million extra trees this year,” Regional Development Spokesperson Mr Bridges says.

“At 5 million trees a year, it would take 200 years to achieve a billion trees. I know Mr Jones is not the hardest worker but stretching a ten year target out to 200 years would be an impressive under-achievement even for him.”

Forestry Spokesperson Nick Smith says this back down on the flagship forestry policy is hugely embarrassing and damaging to the Government’s economic and environmental credibility.

“The Government initially promised 100 million extra trees per year. This was then cut in half by including 50 million trees already being planted each year. The latest back down further reduces the new planting planned for this year to only five million,” Mr Smith says.

“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, the last year of full data. The Minister’s new promise of 55 million trees being planted this year is barely any promise at all.”

Mr Bridges says this change in target is on top of plans to change the overseas investment rules so the values of forest investments drop significantly. That will only decrease forest plantings.

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

“The Labour-led Government is already getting a reputation for lots of talk and no follow-through in regional New Zealand. Labour MPs at their Caucus this weekend need to think about what they’re actually going to do for the regions.

“As with Mr Jones’ Work for the Dole scheme and the Government’s unclear plans for the Opotiki Harbour and regional immigration, this is another policy that is a slogan without anything behind it. It is simply a mirage,” Mr Bridges says.

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