For over 150 years forest and bush in New Zealand has been converted to farmland so that at this point in time only 24% of our country is forested – the figure used to be 80%! There have been gains for New Zealand from this but there have been serious losses.
Most of the current 11.9 million hectares of agricultural land has been cleared, representing around 44% of the total land area and New Zealand is now one of the top agricultural producers in the world – but it has come at a cost.
Because of this large scale conversion to pasture nearly 60% of farmland is susceptible to erosion. As a result we lose between 200-300 million tonnes of soil every year to the oceans – 10 times the world average! The effect of this on coastal fisheries is now being recognized.
If this is not enough the costs associated with hill country erosion through loss of soil and nutrients causing pollution of lakes, rivers and streams , lost production, flood damage to houses, fences, roads, phone and power lines, and damage to waterways is estimated to cost us $100 to $150 million per year.
In addition the loss of NZ biodiversity has progressed to the point where protection of remaining native forest cover is not enough to stop the extinction of more of our plants and animals.
If we are to halt or reverse this environmental decline and loss of biodiversity we need to urgently restore damaged habitats and return greater balance to our ecosystems. The ecological and economic benefits will be huge.
Trees for Survival (TfS) is an educational and environmental programme focused on converting susceptible land and waterways to more stable environments. The programme encourages school students to grow and plant native trees to restore our natural heritage.
In its first 20 years TfS has planted a million trees and some spectacular results recorded. For example
Planning is in place to plant a further million trees by 2021 which will be achieved through co-operative community partnerships involving schools, landowners, business sponsors, volunteer supporters and councils.